Gary Washington, the deaf son of Emanuel AME Church shooting victim Ethel Lance, died Monday, striking yet another blow to a family that has grappled with so many.
Washington’s 70-year-old mother, one of nine people murdered in the racially motivated shooting, was Emanuel’s sexton. Washington often accompanied her to the church.
After she died, Washington struggled with health issues. The 57-year-old spoke emotionally at Dylann Roof’s sentencing after the killer was found guilty of all 33 charges.
Through a sign language interpreter, he described going to church that day in 2015 with his mother and then leaving to go to his own job. While at work, he said he had an odd feeling.
He described thinking, "It's OK. I'll trust in God in this, and I'll give it to him."
Later that night, Washington saw the mass of ambulances and police cars outside Emanuel.
After the tragedy, he suffered heart problems and described passing out once. In the hospital, he woke up certain that he saw his mother and the other eight people who died with her.
“I feel like they just blessed me and told me to (be) calm, that you are going to be OK,” Washington told Roof. “Then the spirits left."
Then he added, "To you, Dylann, I know you will be burning in hell.”
Washington’s death comes after several others have struck Lance and her children, one coming every other year, leaving three of her five children now deceased.
In 2013, two years before the church shooting, her middle daughter, Terrie Washington, died of cancer. Then Lance, the family matriarch, died in 2015. Two years later, her other middle daughter, Esther Lance, also died of health ailments.
Now her family is grappling with Washington’s death.
Two of Lance’s five children survive. Her oldest, the Rev. Sharon Risher, lives in Charlotte and travels the country advocating for gun reforms. Her youngest, Nadine Collier, was the first to speak at Roof’s bond hearing to tell him that she forgave him.
Washington also is survived by his daughters, Aurelia Washington and Caria Washington, and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
His funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Emanuel AME Church.