CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The guilty verdict for Mother Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof is sinking in with the victims' friends and family.
It's the day after the jury declared a guilty verdict for Roof on all 33 charges in federal court for the church shooting which took the lives of nine people.
The friend of Clementa Pinckney, the former pastor of the church who was killed in the shooting, is speaking out about what it was like to be in the courtroom.
Rev. Kylon Middleton says he knew Pinckney for more than 35 years, they were like brothers and talked everyday.
"So when the counts 33 of them were read individually and all of them were guilty that was certainly a time to just exhale, I would not say be relieved, but just breath," Middleton said.
Middleton recalls what it was like when the jury decided on a guilty verdict. He says it was not a celebratory moment because their loved ones are gone.
"For 18 months we've been continuously day after day like someone has been punching you in the gut almost like a scab that you would want to heal," Middleton said.
Middleton is also the pastor of Mother Emanuel's daughter church Mount Zion AME. He says many of his church's members are related to the victims and are grieving. Since the shooting some of Roof's local relatives have attended service at Mount Zion.
"I met with his family and certainly, realize that there lives have changed as well," Middleton said. "We started the dialogue and praying, literally sometimes you can catch us right here on Glebe Street praying for one another."
He says there's more that unites people than separates them.
"We just need to come together," Middleton said. "This has really highlighted the fact, meaning this very senseless act has highlighted that fact that racism does exist in America. We cannot sweep that under the rug."
Middleton says it's been a necessity for him to be in the courtroom everyday though it's hard and surreal, he's still there.
Though the guilt phase is over in the trial there's still the sentencing phase where the jurors will determine if Roof will get the death penalty
or life in prison. Court will resume in three weeks.
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