Funeral services for the ninth and final victim of the Emanuel AME Church Massacre were held Tuesday in South Carolina. However, while the funerals are over, the aftermath of the tragic shooting is far from over.
The Rev. Daniel L. Simmons was mourned at Greater St. Luke AME Church in Charleston, S.C., and at another service in Columbia, S.C. He was laid to rest at Fort Jackson National Cemetery.
Simmons was the final victim to die on the evening of June 17, when eight other Black worshipers were allegedly killed by white suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Roof. Whereas the other victims died at the scene, Simmons died at the hospital.
He was widely known in the AME community, serving as pastor at several churches in South Carolina.
The other victims were mourned last week, along with the Rev. and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney. The funeral for the Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor drew hundreds of people. She is best remembered as a pastor who was also employed as a school administrator and admissions coordinator at Southern Wesleyan University.
Cynthia Hurd, another victim, was a Bible study member and a manager in the Charleston County Public Library system. The library where she worked has been renamed the Cynthia Graham Hurd St. Andrews Regional Library.
As the community of Charleston heals, Emanuel AME Church also continues to heal. Since Pinckney’s death, the Rev. Norvel Goff has taken over as pastor of the church. He is currently the presiding elder of the Edisto District of the 7th Episcopal District of South Carolina.
Goff presided over the first Sunday church service since the massacre.
“In order for us to begin the healing process, we must forgive as we have been forgiven,” he said. “That does not mean that the process of justice does not continue.”
As Emanuel AME Church tries to regain some normalcy, local churches have been meeting about security since the massacre. At a meeting of several Black church clergy, the discussion centered on safety.
Although many reject the idea of having firearms in churches, suggestions included more cameras, door buzzers and upgrades to security systems.
“We want to take necessary precautions, but we don’t want to overreact,” the Rev. John Paul Brown, Mt. Zion AME Church pastor, said.
The Charleston Police Department has increased patrols at churches in the area.
The massacre has put focus on various symbols in South Carolina that represent racism. Tuesday, reports indicated that a statue of former South Carolina Gov. Ben Tillman was vandalized with red paint. Known as a white supremacist, he served as governor from 1890 to 1918.
Meanwhile, Roof remains in a Charleston jail on $1 million bond. The world continues to learn more about why he committed such a heinous crime.
Roof claimed in a lengthy manifesto that he was “awaken” by the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin and started reading about Black-on-white crime on the website of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist group.
The president of the organization, Earl P. Holt III, posted suggestions online about going into Black neighborhoods and shooting people. He said he would use a .45-caliber weapon, like the one used by Roof in the massacre.
Roof confessed on tape to police that he committed the mass murder. He is due back in court Oct. 23 before a circuit judge.
Charleston Chief Magistrate James Gosnell, who presided over Roof’s first court appearance, was recently replaced. Gosnell was criticized for advocating for sympathy for the shooter’s family, just days after the massacre.
“There are victims on this young man’s side of the family,” he said. “We must find it in our heart at some point in time to not only help those who are victims but to also help his family as well.”
Gosnell reportedly has used racial slurs on the bench. In 2003, he was reprimanded for saying to a Black defendant, “There are four kinds of people in this world—Black people, white people, rednecks and niggers.”
Charleston County Magistrate Ellen Steinberg was named as Gosnell’s replacement.