Everything We Know About the Charleston Shooting and the Alleged Gunman
Last night a gunman opened fire in a historic black Charleston, S.C. church, killing at least nine people—including the church’s pastor, state senator Clementa Pinckney. The suspect, a white male in his early 20s, is still at large. Here’s everything we know about the situation so far.
Police say the suspect, pictured in the surveillance photograph above, sat in on a prayer group at the Emanuel AME Church for at least an hour before initiating the shooting.
At least nine people—six women and three men—were killed in the mayhem. That count reportedly includes State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who also acted as the church’s pastor. According to an NAACP official interviewed by the Post and Courier, the shooter told one female survivor “he was letting her live so she could tell everyone else what happened.”
Pinckney’s cousin tells MSNBC witnesses say the gunman’s message was clear:
“He just said ‘I have to do it.’ He said, ‘You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go,’” she said on MSNBC.
Local police, assisted by sheriff’s deputies and the FBI, are currently searching for the man, who they’ve described as a blond, white male, between 21 and 25 years old, clad in a sweatshirt, jeans, and Timberland boots.
Authorities have also released surveillance video of the man’s car exiting the church parking lot. According to WJLA, cops say the car “had a ‘very distinctive’ license plate.”
According to the Post and Courier, at least one man who “fit the description” carrying a camera was briefly detained at a gas station near the church Wednesday but was ultimately released.
Investigators are investigating the shooting as a hate crime.
We’ll update this post with more information, and use the below live blog to push breaking updates.
Update 9:25 a.m.
According to CNN, two of the three survivors were unharmed. ABC News says one victim, a five-year-old girl, apparently survived the shooting by “playing dead.” She is reportedly recovering at the Medical University of South Carolina hospital.
Update 10:20 a.m.
The shooting suspect has been identified as 21-year-old Dylann Roof. Roof’s uncle reportedly told police he recognized his nephew in the surveillance photos from outside the church.
Roof has reportedly been arrested before and is currently out on bond over drug and trespassing charges filed earlier this year.
mugshot of suspect 21 year-old Dylann Storm Roof from prior arrest this year pic.twitter.com/IoY2rqxccFJune 18, 2015
The photograph of Roof currently circulating was pulled from a Facebook page listed under his name. On his jacket is what appears to be two flags related to white power: one from apartheid-era South Africa, and another from Rhodesia.
Second flag on Dylann Roof's jacket appears to be that of white-rule Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe pic.twitter.com/js2IpiP8ZNJune 18, 2015
Update 10:35 a.m.
Roof’s car has reportedly been identified by police as a black Hyundai with the license plate LGF330.
BREAKING: We now have the car tag number as well: Black Hyundai LGF330 #chsnews #CharlestonShooting pic.twitter.com/JVgIWTpS1dJune 18, 2015
Cops say an “intense manhunt” is currently underway.
Update 11:30 a.m.
Authorities say Dylann Roof was taken into custody in Shelby, N.C.
Roof’s uncle says he got a gun as a 21st birthday gift in April, though it’s not clear whether that was the same gun used in the attack. Former classmates also say Roof was into abusing prescription drugs and “made a lot of racist jokes” in high school.