9 Members of Historic Black Church Killed in Hate Crime, Suspect Caught

Image released by police of Charleston, S.C., shooting suspect Dylann Roof.

UPDATE (11:25 am 6/18/2015): Suspect Dylann Roof, 21, has been arrested in Shelby, N.C., according to police.

President Barack Obama weighed inon the shooting, saying:“Hatred across races and faiths poses a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.”

Original story:

As members of a historic Black church in South Carolina gathered for bible study Wednesday night, police said “a clean-shaven white gunman in his early 20s” shot and killed nine churchgoers and wounded several others.

Three men and six women were killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston around 9 p.m., according to police, who this morningidentified the suspect as 21-year-oldDylann Roof, of Lexington, S.C.

“At this point, we have nine victims in this hideous crime that has been committed,” Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen said. “I do believe it was a hate crime.”

Police released security camera images of the suspected gunman — a slender young white man with dark blond or brown hair in a distinctive bowl-type haircut and wearing a grey sweater.

According to Mullen, the suspect sat in the congregation for about an hour before opening fire. Eight people died at the church. The ninth person died in transit to the Medical University of South Carolina.

One of the victims was State Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney, who was also the pastor of church. Pinckney, who took office in 1996, was the youngest Black person in South Carolina’s history to be elected to the state legislature. He was then elected to the State Senate in 2000.

Pinckney sister also was killed in the mass murder, according to J. Todd Rutherford, the minority leader of the State House of Representatives.

The shooter is still on the run. The surveillance video also captured him leaving the church in a black, four-door sedan. The FBI and other federal agencies are involved in the case.

“He obviously is extremely dangerous,” Mullen said.

Cornell Williams Brooks, NAACP President and CEO, issued a statement on the shooting:

The NAACP was founded to fight against racial hatred, and we are outraged that 106 years later, we are faced today with another mass hate crime. Our heartfelt prayers and soul-deep condolences go out to the families and community of the victims at Charleston’s historic Emanuel AME Church. The senselessly slain parishioners were in a church for Wednesday night bible study. There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of scripture.Today, I mourn as an AME minister, as a student and teacher of scripture, as well as a member of the NAACP.

“This is a situation that is unacceptable in any society, especially in our society and our city,” Mullen said at a news conference. “We are leaving no stone unturned.”

Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said the city was offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the gunman.

According to the church’s website, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1816. Six years later in 1822, itwas investigated for its involvement with a planned slave revolt.

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