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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Suspect in deadly South Carolina church shooting ID’d; manhunt underway

You would have to be one sick bastard to do something like this!

What a senseless tragedy.

Sorry to see this happen in one of my favorite towns. Being from the North I feel the people in Charleston, and the South in general, are some of the nicest I have ever come across. Both white and black. If you can't be safe in your own church where can you? 

Mark my words. Any overtures from Sharpton to come down to "help out" will be rebuffed knowing full well he'll turn it into a media circus by taking a terrible situation and making it worse.


Manhunt underway for man who killed nine in church

South Carolina police are hunting Dylann Roof in the deadly shooting Wednesday night at a Charleston church that left nine people dead, authorities announced as they identified the 21-year-old as the gunman. 

Police immediately branded the shooting spree, which began just after 9 p.m. Wednesday, a hate crime, and released surveillance images of a white man fleeing the scene at 180-year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after the horrific incident, which left six women and three men dead.

"This is an unspeakable and unfathomable act by somebody filled with hate and a deranged mind," Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley said in a Thursday morning press conference. He vowed that authorities were "committed to finding this horrible scoundrel."

The Post and Courier reported that Roof was arrested twice in South Carolina and was jailed in March in Lexington County on a drug charge.

"This is an unspeakable and unfathomable act by somebody filled with hate and a deranged mind."

- Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joseph Riley

A five-year-old girl reportedly survived the attack by following her grandmother's instructions to play dead, and a woman was allowed to leave to tell what had happened. It was not immediately known what message she was supposed to convey.

Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said the gunman, described as clean-shaven, was still at large. Police said the man was last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt with blue jeans and Timberland boots. 

“We are committed to do whatever is necessary to bring this individual to justice,” Mullen said, adding that the suspect “should not be approached by anyone.”

Mullen said the suspect entered the church and sat in a pew for up to an hour after the regular prayer meeting had begun, before opening fire at 9:06 p.m.

"This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience," Mullen said. "It is senseless and unfathomable in today's society that someone would walk into a church during a prayer meeting and take their lives."

Mullen said investigators are going through surveillance video gathered overnight from a variety of sources to try to determine the suspect’s whereabouts. State Police and the FBI were working with local authorities in the hunt. Although Mullen said “there is no doubt in my mind that this is a hate crime,” the Department of Justice, which will ultimately make that determination, said it is opening a hate crime investigation.

Mullen said the scene was chaotic when police arrived, and the officers thought they had the suspect tracked with a police dog, but he got away. He also announced that a reward for information leading to the shooter's capture would be offered Thursday and that the FBI would aid the investigation.

Authorities said the crime scene investigation had been complicated by a bomb threat that had been called in, forcing police to move members of the media back and close off a large section of the street where the shooting took place.

Among the dead was the church's pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, 41, who had been a pastor since he was 18. Pinckney was the youngest African-American elected to the South Carolina legislature when he won office in 1996 at age 23 and had been a state senator since 2000. The other victims were not immediately identified.

Soon after Wednesday night's shooting, a group of pastors huddled together praying in a circle across the street. Early Thursday, a family assistance center was set up for families of the victims at a nearby hotel, according to city officials. The center will be staffed by local, state and federal victim services personnel and the Charleston Coastal Chaplaincy.

Amid the prayers and disbelief, was a simmering anger. Community organizer Christopher Cason told The Associated Press he felt certain the shootings were racially motivated.

"I am very tired of people telling me that I don't have the right to be angry," Cason said. "I am very angry right now."

Authorities said the shooting took place at approximately 9 p.m. local time. Police would not immediately confirm the identities of the victims. Mullen said there were survivors, but did not say how many, or how many were inside the church at the time of the shooting.

Dot Scott, the president of the Charleston NAACP, told the Post and Couriernewspaper that she had spoken with a female survivor who said the gunman told the woman he was letting her live so she could tell others what had happened.

"There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of Scripture," NAACP President and CEO Cornell Brooks said in a statement Thursday. "Today I mourn as an AME minister, as a student and teacher of scripture, as well as a member of the NAACP."

Police described the suspect as wearing a gray sweatshirt with blue jeans and Timberland boots. 

The church is a well-known landmark in Charleston, known as "The Holy City" because of its many houses of worship and denominations. The church traces its roots to 1816 when African-American members of the city's Methodist Episcopal Church, led by a freed slave, broke away to form their own congregation. The church was burned to the ground in the 1820s, and rebuilt a decade later.

The campaign of GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush sent out an email saying that due to the shooting, the candidate had canceled an event planned in the city Thursday. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley issued a statement calling the shooting a "senseless tragedy."

"While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we'll never understand what motivated anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another," Haley said. "Please join us in lifting up the victims and their families with our love and prayers."

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. posted a series of Twitter message about the tragedy. "My heart is breaking for Charleston and South Carolina tonight," one of them read.

The church is a historic African-American church that traces its roots to 1816, when several churches split from Charleston's Methodist Episcopal church. One of its founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to organize a slave revolt in 1822. He was caught, and white landowners had his church burned in revenge. Parishioners worshipped underground until after the Civil War.

Anyone with information on the gunman's whereabouts is asked to contact Charleston Police dispatch at 843-743-7200.


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