A white man walked into a historic African-American church in Charleston and opened fire during a Bible study class, killing nine people Wednesday evening. The gunman was still at large early Thursday. And the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest AME church in the South, is being investigated as a hate crime.
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has been a presence in Charleston since 1816, when African-American members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church formed their own congregation after a dispute over burial grounds. It was burned to the ground at one point, but rebuilt. Throughout its history, it overcame obstacle after obstacle — destroyed by an earthquake, banned by the state. But its church members persevered, making it the largest African-American church in terms of seating space in Charleston today.
Every Wednesday evening, the church holds a Bible study in its basement. The shooting was “obviously the most intolerable and unbelievable act possible,” the mayor said. “People in prayer Wednesday evening. A ritual, a coming together, praying, worshiping God. An awful person to come in and shoot them is inexplicable,” Riley said. Police received the first call around 9:05 p.m. Officers arrived to find several victims inside. “It’s really bad. It’s a very bad scene,” local pastor Thomas Dixon said.
Search on for the gunman
Police say the gunman is a clean-shaven white man in his early 20s, 5 feet, 9 inches tall with a slender build and sandy blond hair. He was wearing a gray sweatshirt, blue jeans and Timberland boots. “He obviously is extremely dangerous,” Mullen said. On Thursday morning, police handed out images of the man and his car taken from surveillance footage and asked for the public’s help in identifying him. Officials believe he is still in the Charleston area, but they have contacted law enforcement authorities elsewhere to be on the lookout.
Flyer handed out by police showing suspect in #CharlestonShooting & getaway car.(@saeed_ahmed) June 18, 2015
On Thursday morning, police handed out images of the man and his car taken from surveillance footage and asked for the public’s help in identifying him. Officials believe he is still in the Charleston area, but they have contacted law enforcement authorities elsewhere to be on the lookout.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck effort with the community as well as law enforcement,” Mullen said. “When people go out, they should be vigilant, they should be aware of their surroundings. And if they see anything suspicious, they should call law enforcement.”
• The person who shot and killed nine people at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was there for about an hour, attending a meeting with the eventual victims, before he began shooting, Charleston police Chief Greg Mullen said Thursday morning.
• There were three survivors in Wednesday evening’s shooting, Mullen said without elaborating.
• “This is a situation that is unacceptable in any society, and especially in our society and our city,” he said.
• Of the nine people killed, six were female and three were male.
• The suspect is in his early 20s and stands 5 feet, 9 inches tall. “He has on a very distinctive sweatshirt as well as the vehicle, with a very distinctive license plate,” the police chief said.
• Police say they think he is still in the Charleston area.
Words: via CNN.com