The pastor who baptized Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof as a baby, marking him "with the cross of Christ forever," has said that even in the face of the horror of what he did, God never forsakes anyone.
"I don't think God ever forsakes us and God's spirit is in there somewhere, so I would not give up hope on him," Pastor Richard Graf, who baptized Roof as a 2-year-old in April 1997, said in an interview with local news station WYFF 4.
Roof, a white supremacist who murdered nine black worshipers in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 2015, was sentenced to death in January for his crime.
He was convicted of 33 charges against him, with the hate crime shocking Christians throughout America.
The 22-year-old white supremacist has to date shown no remorse for what he did.
"You may remember in my confession I said I had to do it. I guess that's not really true. I didn't have to do it, no one made me do it. What I meant when I said that was I felt like I had to do it and I still feel like I had to do it," Roof told the jurors.
Graf admitted that he struggles to come to terms with what the boy he once baptized became.
"What he did was terrible, there's no excuse for it, it was a crime against the people of God and God Himself," the pastor said. "Those people had the God-given gift of life and he took that, he took that away from them. Now, my government that I am a part of is doing the same to him and compounding one wrong with another distresses me tremendously."
Still, he shared his hope that Roof will ask for forgiveness for his actions, stating that evil is among all of humankind.
"Evil is among us, none of us are perfect. We're all mortal and it is our sin that causes our death," Graf continued. "Jesus came to tell us there's no way we can stop being like that, but by His death and His conquest He can give us life that never ends."
Some of the families of the victims, such as Melvin Graham whose sister, Cynthia Hurd, a librarian, died in the attack, have also suggested that the doors of forgiveness are not closed on Roof.
"He decided the day, the hour and the moment that my sister was going to die, and now someone is going to do the same to him," Graham said about the death sentence decision.
"But unlike my sister, he has another chance. He's in God's hands, and if he turns his life around, and if he makes a humble confession to God, when he gets there, he can join my sister and the others in Heaven."