Thursday 21 September 2017

Man who killed nine people in South Carolina black church has been arrested

* Nine dead, including church's pastor who was a state senator
* US Justice Department to launch formal hate crime probe
* Police release photos of 21-year-old suspect

Police respond to a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, June 17, 2015. A gunman opened fire on Wednesday evening at the historic African-American church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. REUTERS/Randall Hill
A man reacts while talking to police officer near the scene of shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, June 17, 2015. A gunman opened fire on Wednesday evening at the historic African-American church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. REUTERS/Randall Hill
People concerned about relatives seek information from police nearby the scene of a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, June 17, 2015. A gunman opened fire on Wednesday evening at the historic African-American church in downtown Charleston. REUTERS/Randall Hill
A person seeks information about a relative as police respond to a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, June 17, 2015. A gunman opened fire on Wednesday evening at the historic African-American church in downtown Charleston. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Police respond to a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, June 17, 2015. A gunman opened fire on Wednesday evening at the historic African-American church in downtown Charleston. REUTERS/Randall Hill
A suspect which police are searching for in connection with the shooting of several people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina is seen in a still image from CCTV footage released by the Charleston Police Department June 18, 2015. A white gunman was still at large after killing nine people during a prayer service at an historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, the city's police chief said on Thursday, describing the attack as a hate crime. REUTERS/Charleston Police Department/Handout via Reuters
A suspect which police are searching for in connection with the shooting of several people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina is seen in stills from CCTV footage on a poster released by the Charleston Police Department June 18, 2015. A white gunman was still at large after killing nine people during a prayer service at an historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, the city's police chief said on Thursday, describing the attack as a hate crime. REUTERS/Charleston Police Department/Handout via Reuters
Police vehicles are seen at the street of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, June 18, 2015. Police in Charleston were searching for a white gunman on Thursday who killed nine people in a historic African-American church, in an attack that police and the city's mayor described as a hate crime. REUTERS/Randall Hill
A small prayer circle forms nearby where police are responding to a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina June 17, 2015. A gunman opened fire on Wednesday evening at the historic African-American church in downtown Charleston, a U.S. police official said. REUTERS/Randall Hill TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A car which police believe belongs to a suspect which police are searching for in connection with the shooting of several people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina is seen in a still image from CCTV footage released by the Charleston Police Department June 18, 2015. A white gunman was still at large after killing nine people during a prayer service at an historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, the city's police chief said on Thursday, describing the attack as a hate crime. REUTERS/Charleston Police Department/Handout via Reuters
A photographer is arrested as police respond to a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina June 17, 2015. A gunman opened fire on Wednesday evening at the historic African-American church in downtown Charleston. The photographer was later released. REUTERS/Randall Hill
A man reacts while talking to police officer near the scene of shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, June 17, 2015. A gunman opened fire on Wednesday evening at the historic African-American church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. REUTERS/Randall Hill TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Police respond to a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina June 17, 2015. A gunman opened fire on Wednesday evening at the historic African-American church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, and was still at large, a U.S. police official said. REUTERS/Randall Hill
A small prayer circle forms nearby where police are responding to a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, June 17, 2015. A gunman opened fire on Wednesday evening at the historic African-American church in downtown Charleston. REUTERS/Randall Hill
A Charleston police officer walks past the entrance of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, June 18, 2015. Police in Charleston were searching for a white gunman on Thursday who killed nine people in a historic African-American church, in an attack that police and the city's mayor described as a hate crime. REUTERS/Randall Hill TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Charleston residents Darby Jenkins (R) and his mother Ashley, look for a spot to leave flowers for the victims of Wednesday's shootings, near a police barricade in Charleston, South Carolina June 18, 2015. Police in Charleston were searching for a white gunman on Thursday who killed nine people in a historic African-American church, in an attack that police and the city's mayor described as a hate crime. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Flowers for the victims of Wednesday's shootings, are laid near a police barricade in Charleston, South Carolina, June 18, 2015. Police in Charleston were searching for a white gunman on Thursday who killed nine people in a historic African-American church, in an attack that police and the city's mayor described as a hate crime. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Charleston residents Darby Jenkins (L) and his mother Ashley, leave flowers for the victims of Wednesday's shootings, near a police barricade in Charleston, South Carolina, June 18, 2015. Police in Charleston were searching for a white gunman on Thursday who killed nine people in a historic African-American church, in an attack that police and the city's mayor described as a hate crime. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Charleston police man a barricade behind the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, June 18, 2015. Police in Charleston were searching for a white gunman on Thursday who killed nine people in a historic African-American church, in an attack that police and the city's mayor described as a hate crime. Also pictured are residents' vehicles which are seen stuck in the cordon during investigation. REUTERS/Randall Hill

Harriet McLeod

Police in Charleston, South Carolina, have arrested a white gunman who killed nine people in a historic African-American church including the pastor, a black state senator, in an attack the US Department of Justice called a hate crime.

The shooter, a 21-year-old white man with sandy blond hair, sat with churchgoers inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for about an hour on Wednesday before opening fire, Police Chief Gregory Mullen said.

The US Department of Justice opened a hate crime investigation into the shooting, which follows a string of racially charged killings that have prompted waves of protest across the United States over the past year and sparked the "Black Lives Matter" movement. [ID: nL1N0Z40RV]

Demonstrations have rocked cities including New York, Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, following police killings of unarmed black men including Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and Michael Brown.

A white police officer was charged with murder after he shot an unarmed black man in the back in April in neighboring North Charleston.

The victims included Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was the church's pastor and a Democratic member of the state Senate, his cousin and fellow state senator Kent Williams told CNN.

Read more: Photo released of Charleston church suspect who killed nine

"This is an unfathomable and unspeakable act by somebody filled with hate and with a deranged mind," Charleston Mayor Joe Riley told reporters.

Six females and three males died in the attack, Mullen said.

The shooting recalled the 1963 bombing of an African-American church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four girls and galvanized the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

The Charleston church is one of the largest and oldest black congregations in the South, according to its website. It has its roots in the early 19th century, and was founded in part by a freed slave who was later executed for organizing a revolt, according to the U.S. National Park Service.

"This tragedy that we are addressing right now is indescribable," Mullen said. "We are committed to do whatever is necessary to bring this individual to justice."

'WHERE ARE YOU SAFE?'

The community reacted with shock and grief after Wednesday's shooting.

"I'm heartbroken," said Shona Holmes, 28, a bystander at the aftermath of the shooting. "It's just hurtful to think that someone would come in and shoot people in a church. If you're not safe in church, where are you safe?"

The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other agencies have joined in the investigation, Mullen said.

Eight victims were found dead in the church, Mullen said, and a ninth died after being taken to hospital. Three people survived the attack. Officials did not immediately identify the victims.

Read more: White gunman kills nine people at black church in US

Williams called Pinckney's death hard to believe.

"It's devastating, devastating that someone would go into God's house and commit such a crime," Williams told CNN. "It's just a huge, huge loss."

Early today, Mullen released photos of the suspect taken from the church, as well as of a black sedan that he was seen leaving in. Mullen added there was "no reason to believe" that he was not in the Charleston area.

The shooter told one survivor he would let her live so she could tell others what happened, the president of the Charleston NAACP, Dot Scott, told the local Post and Courier newspaper.

Following the attack, 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.

Reuters

Editors Choice

Also in World News