During the attack at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., on Wednesday night, suspected gunman
"He pointed the gun at his head and pulled the trigger, but it went 'click,'" because the chamber was empty, said Kevin Singleton, the son of 59-year-old Myra Thompson.
"His plan was never to leave that church," Singleton said.
Singleton said he and his family were told the story by Polly Sheppard, 69, one of two adult survivors of the massacre that left nine people dead.
A woman who answered the telephone at Sheppard's house Saturday refused to comment.
Singleton, 40, a magazine publisher in Charlotte, N.C., said it appeared that Roof's original intent was to kill the church's well-known minister, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
But when the Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74 and retired, grappled with him, he unloaded on Simmons and the others, Singleton said.
Felicia Sanders, 57, and her granddaughter survived by pretending to be dead.
Roof told Sheppard that he was sparing her so that she could tell the story of his carnage, then turned the gun on himself, to no avail, Singleton said.
Roof was apprehended the next day after being spotted by a motorist in North Carolina and brought back to Charleston to face nine charges of murder.
Singleton spoke for the first time Saturday about the life of his mother, a school teacher turned guidance counselor who was studying for a third career in the ministry, he said.
She died alongside Sharonda Singleton (no relation to Kevin), her best friend.
"She always wanted to teach the word of God," Kevin Singleton said. "She was a very strong mom, no B.S."
An example of her determination was that she went to the Citadel, a bastion of the Old South, for two graduate degrees in counseling.
Her latest project, unfulfilled when she died, was to write motivational books, Singleton said.
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