Best friend of Charleston church shooting victim remembers Tywan - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Best friend of Charleston church shooting victim remembers Tywanza Sanders

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Tywanza Sanders; Photo Courtesy of Michele Gray Tywanza Sanders; Photo Courtesy of Michele Gray
Tywanza Sanders; Photo Courtesy of Michele Gray Tywanza Sanders; Photo Courtesy of Michele Gray
Tywanza Sanders; Photo Courtesy of Michele Gray Tywanza Sanders; Photo Courtesy of Michele Gray

CHARLESTON, SC (WMBF) – Nine people whose lives were stolen overnight in a brutal Charleston church mass shooting leave behind nine families, nine groups of friends and nine lifetimes of memories. Thursday, WMBF News crews spoke with a grieving best friend of one of the victims.

"I've been up all night," Michele Gray said of learning her best friend, Tywanza Sanders was killed in the deadly rampage. "My brother called me and it was shock, disbelief. I was like ‘you're lying. This cannot happen to us, cannot happen to his family'. I'm at a loss for words to even explain how I feel."

Police said nine people were killed in the shooting around 9:05 p.m. Wednesday during a prayer meeting inside Emanuel AME Church downtown. Police said officers arrived to find eight people dead, and a ninth victim died later at a nearby hospital. Overnight Wednesday, and through the day Thursday, local leaders and the Charleston community begged for answers.

"One person should not possess so much power to ruin all these families and a city, that we call the "Holy City", and something like this happen," Gray continued.

Gray is one of many mourning the loss of Sanders, who was in his mid-20's and graduated from Allen University last May. She said he was ambitious, fun, and wise – working currently as a barber. Sanders regularly attended the bible study at Emmanuel AME, and was raised in a family with a lot of faith.

There is one thing Gray said she will always miss, but never forget about the man she considered a big brother. “You would never forget that big ol' smile that he always had on his face... so… just to think I'll never see that smile again in person is very heartbreaking.”

Sanders was sitting just five feet from the suspected shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, who was taken into custody in Shelby North Carolina around 11:30 a.m. Thursday. But for Gray, it's more important to take time to remember those who were killed, rather than give attention to the man who pulled the trigger.

“We all grew up together, he's not a friend, he's a brother,” Gray reflected on her relationship with Sanders. “So, yeah, he's my brother more than anything. And it's very hard to know that I can't pick up the phone, or go on Snapchat or Facebook see him.”

At 5 p.m, WMBF News reporter Stephanie Robusto talks to Gray in a full interview.

Copyright 2015 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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