The nine people shot and killed at a historic African-American church on Wednesday evening ranged in age from 26 to 87. They were attending Bible study and the gunman was sitting among them.
Those who died included the church’s senior pastor and a state senator, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a father of two who started preaching at age 13. They also included the Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Ethel Lance, 70; Cynthia Hurd, 54; the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Susie Jackson, 87; and Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49. (View their profiles.)
The alleged perpetrator is 21-year-old Dylann Roof, who was arrested at a traffic stop in Shelby, North Carolina, 14 hours after the incident, confirmed Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen on Thursday afternoon.
President Barack Obama expressed sadness and anger in a televised statement from the White House, saying the nation needs to act on gun control. “This type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is within our power to do something about it.”
Police received a phone call at about 9:05 p.m. Wednesday that a gunman had opened fire in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, killing nine people.
“We believe this is a hate crime, that is how we are investigating it,” said Mullen at a Thursday morning news conference.
The suspect, whose image was captured on surveillance video, was believed to have entered the Emanuel AME Church between 8 and 9 p.m. and stayed there during a prayer service before opening fire, according to law enforcement officials.
NAACP President and CEO Cornell Brooks said in a statement, “The NAACP was founded to fight against racial hatred and we are outraged that 106 years later, we are faced today with another mass hate crime. … There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of scripture.”
Police have set up an assistance center for the families of those killed.
“Today this community is going to provide the best example of coming together to help those grieving,” said Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley at the news conference. “We will work to heal them, love them and support them and that church as long as we live.”
On Thursday’s PBS NewsHour, co-anchor Gwen Ifill discussed how Charleston is coping with South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn and Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project in Montgomery, Alabama.