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Bible study, unity walk to honor church shooting victims in SC

By Bruce Smith Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. – A memorial service at the arena where President Barack Obama last year led the congregation in “Amazing Grace” is among more than two dozen events scheduled during 12 days to mark the first anniversary of a mass slaying at a historically black church in Charleston.

The Emanuel AME Church announced on Monday that the memorial service will be held on June 17, which will mark a year since nine black parishioners were gunned down during Bible study.

About 6,000 mourners turned out a year ago as the president delivered the eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a South Carolina state senator who was one of the victims, at the College of Charleston’s TD Arena. He then led the congregation in singing the hymn.

College officials said 5,000 mourners were turned away.

The service next week is among a number of observances scheduled from June 15 through June 26, starting with an ecumenical Bible study at the church to be led by the Rev. Dr. Betty Deas Clark.

On June 18, a unity walk will start in a nearby park and pass in front of the church before ending at the city’s new performing arts center. Doves will be released at the center and a tree will be dedicated in memory of the slain.

Among the other events are worship services at the church, a gospel concert, a bell concert and a prayer breakfast.

Dylann Roof faces state murder charges as well as federal charges including hate crimes in connection to the shootings, which took place during a Bible study. The state announced last year it will seek the death penalty for Roof in a trial set for January.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said last month the federal government also will seek the death penalty.

Roof appeared in photos waving Confederate flags and burning or desecrating U.S. flags, and purportedly wrote of starting a race war. He was arrested a day after the shootings when a motorist spotted his Confederate license plate.

Roof’s attorneys are scheduled to meet Tuesday with a federal judge to discuss the status of his trial. No trial date has been set. The state prosecutor has said South Carolina would like to try Roof first.

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