Charleston shooting suspect Dylann Roof to remain in custody

CHARLESTON, United States (AFP) - Charleston church shooting suspect Dylann Roof was ordered to remain in custody on nine murder charges Friday, at an emotional bond hearing during which relatives of the victims expressed their grief.

Roof's attorney, public defender Ashley Pennington, said his 21-year-old client was prepared to "accept the no bond arrangement."

Judge James Gosnell set the next court hearing in the case for Oct 23.

Roof stands accused of gunning down nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the southeastern US city on Wednesday night during a Bible study meeting.

He was arrested on Thursday in North Carolina and brought back to Charleston to face charges.

Bond was set at US$1 million (S$1.3 million) on a weapons charge, but Roof will nevertheless remain in custody because no bond was set on the murder charges.

Relatives of the nine victims were invited to speak at Friday's hearing.

Several broke down in tears as they spoke of their loss, but also said they forgave Roof.

"Every fibre in my body hurts, and I'll never be the same. Tywanza Sanders was my son. But he was my hero," said Felicia Sanders.

Gosnell's opening statement - in which he asked the community to help relatives of the suspect - instantly created a stir on social media.

"We have victims, nine of them. But we also have victims on the other side. There are victims on this young man's side of the family," Gosnell said.

"Nobody would have ever thrown them into the whirlwind of events that they have been thrown into."