A Shooting at Historic Charleston AME Church—9 dead

9 African-American victims were killed in Charleston on Wednesday night after a fatal church shooting by a white gunman who officials have recently named as Dylann Storm Roof.

 The shooting took place during a prayer meeting at the historic Emanuel AME Church. The suspect allegedly attended an hour of the meeting before shooting the individuals at around 9pm. Eight church-goers were already dead at the scene when authorities arrived, and two more were taken to the hospital where one later died. One of the victims was the pastor of the church, Reverend/Senator Clementa Pinckney. Another victim has been identified as Goose Creek High School girls track and field coach Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Although none of the other victims have been named, 6 women and 3 men were amongst the fatally shot. Fox 2 New reports that the victim that survived the incident said that Roof left her alive so that she could say what happened. 

The suspect, Dylann Storm Roof, is currently wanted by the police. Police have described him as being 21 years old and 5'9” with a slender build. He also has sandy blond hair in a bowl cut style. These images released in a flier from the police were taken from security footage. The flier also shows the black Hyundai sedan belonging the the suspect that was his alleged escape vehicle.

 A reward to be announced later on Thursday will be given to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of the shooter.

In addition to serving as the church's pastor, one of the victims, Reverend Clementa Pinckney was also politician. He spent his last day campaigning with Democratic candidate, Hilary Clinton. The church's website says, “Rev. Pinckney was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1996 at the age of twenty-three. In 2000, he was elected to the State Senate at the age of twenty-seven. He is one of the youngest persons and the youngest African-American in South Carolina to be elected to the State Legislature.” Pinckney was still representing the 45th district in the Senate at the time of his death. Amongst the bereaved are his wife Jennifer and their two children, Eliana and Malana.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is known for its historic roots. One of the church's founders, Denmark Vessey began organizing a major slave uprising in 1821 in Charleston, but the plan was later discovered in 1822, causing it to never take place. Black churches were later outlawed in 1834, so the congregation moved worship underground until the ban was lifted in 1865 after the Civil War. Throughout its expansive history, the church has had visits from many prominent African American leaders such as Booker T. Washington (1909) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1962).

In a press conference held by the police after the shooting, South Carolina Police Chief Gregory Mullen said, "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this was a hate crime." At the same conference, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley agreed saying, “The only reason someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is out of hate. It is the most dastardly act that one could possibly imagine.” A hate crime investigation has been launched by the Department of Justice, FBI and US Attorney's Office.

-Matré Grant
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