CHARLESTON, S.C., June 19 (UPI) -- Dylann Roof, the man accused in a church shooting spree that left nine dead, was charged with nine counts of murder in a bond hearing Friday at which members of the victims' families offered their forgiveness.
Roof, 21, was also charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.
Charleston County Judge James Gosnell didn't have the authority to set bond for the murder charges -- only a circuit court can do that -- but he set a $1 million bond for the firearm charge.
Before setting the bond, he asked for statements from the family members of the victims.
The daughter of victim Ethel Lance told Roof -- who appeared in court via video -- that she forgave him.
"You took something very precious away from me," she said directly to Roof. "But I forgive you."
Family members of other victims offered similar statements of forgiveness and asked him to repent.
Felicia Sanders, one of the survivors of the shooting, said her son, Tywanza Sanders, was killed in the attack.
"Every fiber in my body hurts," she said. "[Tywanza] was my hero, but as we said in Bible study, we enjoyed you and may God have mercy on you."
Gosnell started the hearing with a statement saying "Charleston is a very strong community" that will reach out to all victims.
"We have victims, nine of them. But we also have victims on the other side," he said of Roof's family. "We must find it in our hearts to not only help those victims but to also help his family as well."
In South Carolina, a murder conviction carries the possibility of the death penalty. The Charleston police are calling the shooting a hate crime; the Justice Department is reviewing the possibility.
Chief prosecutor Scarlett Wilson told reporters after the hearing that she and her team intend to "serve justice."
"My mission is to bring justice for this community and especially for the victims in the case and we will do it efficiently and effectively," she said.
Wilson said her team met with the DOJ earlier Friday.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said the state "absolutely will want him to have the death penalty."
"This is the worst hate that I've seen -- and that the country has seen -- in a long time," Haley said. "We will fight this, and we will fight this as hard as we can."
Roof was being kept in protective custody at the jail, away from the other inmates, on suicide watch.
Unnamed law enforcement officials told CNN Roof confessed to the crime and purchased the .45-caliber handgun used in the shooting, refuting previous reports that his father purchased the weapon.
Police said Roof attended a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for about an hour before opening fire at 9 p.m., Wednesday, telling the group he was there "to kill black people," adding "you rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go."
NBC News reported that Roof "almost didn't go through with it because everyone was so nice to him." Instead, he decided he had to "go through with his mission."
Roof was captured in Shelby, N.C., about a three-hour drive from the church. An alert florist on her way to work spotted Roof's black car and followed it for about 30 miles before police arrived.
"I paid close attention to the pictures on TV, but I thought, 'No, it can't be him,'" she said. "I noticed the car. And I noticed the boy's haircut."
Roof's friends said he wanted to start a race war, adding he would often talk about "Southern pride."
"It was just jokes he would make, racist jokes," former high school classmate John Mullins said.
Meanwhile, the DOJ said it's also considering the possibility of investigating the shooting as a possible case of domestic terrorism.
"This heartbreaking episode was undoubtedly designed to strike fear and terror into this community, and the department is looking at this crime from all angles, including as a hate crime and as an act of domestic terrorism," DOJ spokeswoman Emily Pierce said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, many were questioning why the massacre is being called a possible hate crime and not terrorism.
Civil rights advocates are questioning why attacks carried out by violent Muslim extremists in the United States are classified as acts of terrorism, but attacks against blacks and Muslim Americans are rarely called terrorism.
"We have been conditioned to accept that if the violence is committed by a Muslim, then it is terrorism," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights advocacy group. "If the same violence is committed by a white supremacist or apartheid sympathizer and is not a Muslim, we start to look for excuses -- he might be insane, maybe he was pushed too hard."
NAACP President Cornell Williams Brooks held a news conference Friday at the Charleston branch of the organization. He called the shootings "an act of racial terrorism," saying the incident "must be treated as such.
"People of all faiths, of all traditions, every hue, every heritage, are quite simply shocked by this crime," he said.
"We will not give in ... to the forces of hate."
Gosnell scheduled Roof's next two court dates for Oct. 23 and Feb. 5, though he may preliminary hearings regarding evidence