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Moments after the publication of this article it has been reported by multiple media outlets that Dylan Roof was apprehended by police in Shelby, North Carolina.
Wednesday evening the quiet sanctuary of a house of worship in Charleston, South Carolina was violently disturbed by a male who began shooting in a church, striking down and killing 9 victims. The shooting happened at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal a historical African-American church, the oldest AMC church in the south.
Among the victims where six females and three males, one of whom is the pastor of the church, state Senator Clementa Pinckney. Todd Rutherford, State Minority House leader described Pinckney as a caring person who was always out working for members of his church and his constituents. The married, 41-year-old father of two children, was the youngest member of the states house at the time of his election when he was 23 years old.
The alleged shooter Dylann Roof is described as a young white male who is 21, he was wearing Timberland boots, jeans and a gray sweatshirt at the time of the shooting. The suspect is slender and clean-shaven with sandy blond hair. According to reports he attended a prayer meeting at the church for which he stayed for about an hour before he began his violent shooting spree.
Police Chief Gregory Mullen said he believes the attack is a hate crime. The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a federal investigation into the shooting. Mayor of Charleston Joe Riley called the shooting an unspeakable act by some who is filled with hate.
Mullen and the police department asked for help in identifying the suspect in order to apprehend him before he could hurt anyone else. It is not believed that Roof has left the Charleston area but information about the suspect and his vehicle, which is thought to be a dark sedan have been distributed around the country.
The shooting happened around nine Wednesday evening, according to Mullen. The police arrived and found a chaotic scene. Reporters at the scene tweeted that they were being asked to remain inside a nearby restaurant. A heavy police presence was surrounding the scene of the crime with helicopters flying overhead. Corey Wessenger, who was nearby the church said that police escorted 40 people out of the church. Members from the community gathered nearby in a circle praying for the victims.
The shooting of 9 people struck down in a violent crime in a Charleston church is believed to be another racially motivated crime in what has been a long list as of late. Protest in cities like Baltimore, Ferguson Missouri and New York have erupted after shootings of unarmed black males, and campaigns such as Black Lives Matters have spread across the country. In April, in close by North Charleston, a white officer was charged with murder after shooting an unarmed black male in the back. The shooting of Walter Scott brought to light racial tensions in the area after massive protest began in response to the crime. Christopher Carson a Community Organizer, is very angry about the shootings, which he is certain were motivated by race. He is tired of being told he does not have the right to be angry. Carson has been meeting with local leaders and police to fix relations in the community between members and the police. Scott’s shooting and the protest brought about the successful push through of a bill helping all police agencies in the state to acquire body cameras. Pinckney sponsored the bill.
The violent shooting in a Charleston church that struck down nine victims is still under investigation. At this time it is believed to be a hate crime. authorities have not suggested any group is behind the shooting. According to the Southern Law Poverty Center there are 19 hate groups in South Carolina, two of which are factions of the KKK and four that are considered “white nationalist” groups.
By Jessica Hamel
AP: Pastor, and 8 Others Fatally Shot at Church in Charleston, SC.
Reuters: Police Hunt Man Who Killed Nine in Historic South Carolina Black Church
CNN: Charleston Church Shooting: Multiple Fatalities in South Carolina Shooting, Source Says
Top Photo Courtesy of Derek Bridges’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons Licence
Photo of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Courtesy of Henry de Saussure Copeland’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons License