Pastor, 8 Others Fatally Shot at Church in Charleston, SC

A white man opened fire during a prayer meeting inside a historic black church in downtown Charleston, killing nine people

Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. called the shooting “an unfathomable and unspeakable act by somebody filled with hate and with a deranged mind. … Of all cities, in Charleston, to have a horrible hateful person go into the church and kill people there to pray and worship with each other is something that is beyond any comprehension and is not explained. We are going to put our arms around that church and that church family.”

 

A white man opened fire during a prayer meeting inside a historic black church in downtown Charleston, killing nine people, including the pastor, in an assault authorities described as a hate crime.

The suspect attended the meeting at the church Wednesday night and stayed for nearly an hour before the deaths, police Chief Greg Mullen said.

The shooter remained at large Thursday morning and police released photographs from surveillance video of a suspect and a possible getaway vehicle. Mullen said he could not offer a make and model on the dark colored sedan because investigators were not certain about what is shown in the video.

The victims were six females and three males, Mullen said Thursday morning. He did not give other details and said names would be released after families were notified.

But State House Minority leader Todd Rutherford told The Associated Press that the Emanuel AME Church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, was among those killed.

Pinckney, 41, was a married father of two who was elected to the state House at age 23, making him the youngest member of the House at the time.

“He never had anything bad to say about anybody, even when I thought he should,” Rutherford, D-Columbia, said. “He was always out doing work either for his parishioners or his constituents. He touched everybody.”

Mullen said he believed the attack was a hate crime. The suspect was described as a white man in his early 20s.

“This is a very dangerous individual,” Mullen said.

“We want to identify this individual and arrest him before he hurts anyone else,” the chief said.

Mullen said he had no reason to think the suspect has left the Charleston area, but was distributing information about him and the vehicle around the country.

Mullen said the scene at the church was chaotic when police arrived, and officers thought they had the suspect tracked with a police dog, but he got away.

“We will put all effort, we will put all resources and we will put all of our energy into finding this individual who committed this crime tonight,” he said.