Charleston Shooting Victim Wore An "I Can't Breathe" T-Shirt In Instagram Post
Tywanza Sanders, 26, died while reportedly trying to save his aunt during the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston. His mother, Felicia Sanders, and 11-year-old niece were among the survivors.
Tywanza Sanders was the youngest of nine victims of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting on June 17.
Maynard Terry, Sanders' brother, revealed to BuzzFeed News via a Facebook private message that his 11-year-old daughter was one of the survivors in the church massacre, along with his mother, Felicia Sanders. He credits his brother with saving them.
"He saved the lives of our mom and my 11-year-old daughter. For that I will always love and respect him," he said.
Terry is also a barber. He works at Smitty's Super Seven Barber in North Charleston.
He told BuzzFeed News that Sanders worked at another barbershop in North Charleston during the day. At night, he was a part-time employee at Steak and Shake.
"We had talks of opening up a barbershop together," Terry said. "But he always knew he wanted more."
Sanders had other aspirations beyond the barbershop, Terry said. He was especially interested in the performing arts, as well as furthering his education.
"He was an aspiring rapper. He always said he would be famous and I brushed it off," he said. "Now I find it ironic that he's a nationwide icon in death.
Terry added that Sanders was gearing up to star in a play at Royal Baptist Church in North Charleston.
Tywanza and his bother had been discussing whether or not he should apply to graduate school; Terry said that cost was the main factor in the decision-making process.
On March 27, Sanders posted to Instagram a photo of himself clad in a black shirt that reads "I Can't Breathe," a phrase borne out of the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man from Staten Island who died from a police chokehold.
Sanders also appeared to have been following the story of Walter Scott, a black man from North Charleston, South Carolina, who was fatally shot in the back while running away from a white police officer.
Sanders took a photo of the front page of the local paper, the Post and Courier, the day after Scott was killed.
Sanders participated in the #BlackLivesMatter movement on social media, often posting relevant images to bring attention to the number of unarmed black people gunned down by police.
In 2014, Sanders graduated with a business degree from Allen University, an historically black college founded by the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Sanders represented his department at a commencement dinner.
Before enrolling at Allen University, Sanders earned a barbering degree from Denmark Technical College.
Felicia Sanders, Tywanza's mother, made a statement directed at Roof during the bond hearing on Friday. She was one of three survivors of the massacre.
"We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms," she said. "You have killed some of the most beautiful people I know. Every fiber in my body hurts, and I will never be the same."
"Tywanza was my son, but Tywanza was my hero," she added. "As we say in Bible study, we enjoyed you, but may God have mercy on you."
Dylann Roof, 21, was arrested June 18 and is being charged with nine counts of murder and a weapons offense. He reportedly confessed to the killings while in police custody on June 19, the same day he was scheduled to appear in court for a bond hearing.