Photo released of Charleston church suspect who killed nine
Published 18/06/2015 | 11:50
An image of the white gunmen who killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, has been released.
The suspect, who is still on the loose, has been described as a clean-shaved, white male aged approximately 21, with a small, slender build, wearing a grey sweatshirt with jeans and boots.
Greg Mullan, the Charleston chief of police, told a press conference held earlier today that police were treating the incident as "a hate crime."
"We believe this was a hate crime, that's how we're investigating it," he said.
Read More: White gunman kills nine people at black church in US
"We've got a good starting point, a good suspect... [but] we need the assistance of the public... Do not approach this person, call 911.We have no reason to believe he's not in the Charleston area. He could be outside."
A picture of the suspect has been published by Charleston's local government on its Facebook page.
"He left the church in a black four-door sedan car, also pictured, and is considered armed and dangerous," added Chief Mullan.
At least eight people were killed after the gunman opened fire inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church, whose pastor Clementa Pinckney, a Democratic member of the South Carolina Senate, was named as one of the dead.
Another victim died on the way to hospital, confirmed Charleston police.
Read more here: US police continue to hunt for man who killed nine people in South Carolina black church
Chief Mullen said there were survivors, but declined to give more details.
"This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience ... It is senseless, unfathomable. We are going to do everything in our power to find this individual, to lock him [the gunman] up, to make sure he does not hurt anyone else," he added.
A reward leading to the gunman's capture is expected to be announced later today.
Read More: Nine dead in US church shooting
The suspect, who police described as a 21-year-old white man wearing a sweatshirt, jeans and boots, was still at large hours after the shooting on Wednesday evening.
After the shooting, a bomb threat was reported near the church, Charleston County Sheriff's Office spokesman Eric Watson said, and people who were gathered in the area were told by police to move back.
Chief Mullen told the press conference that the all-clear had been given after checks following the bomb threat.
Following the attack on the church, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, canceled an appearance in Charleston that had been scheduled for Thursday morning.
"Governor Bush's thoughts and prayers are with the individuals and families affected by this tragedy," his campaign team said in a statement.
Local broadcaster WCSC reported the FBI was on the scene.
The website for the church said it has one of the largest and oldest black congregations in the South.
It has its roots in the early 19th century, and the current building was built in 1891.