Thursday, June 18, 2015

9 Killed in Mass Shooting in Charleston, South Carolina

God have mercy.

At the Charlotte Observer, "9 fatally shot at historic black church in Charleston, S.C.":

CHARLESTON, S.C. - A white man opened fire during a prayer meeting inside a historic black church in downtown Charleston on Wednesday night, killing nine people in an assault that authorities described as a hate crime. The shooter remained at large Thursday morning.

Police Chief Greg Mullen said he believed the attack at the Emanuel AME Church was a hate crime, and police were looking for a white male in his early 20s.

“The only reason that someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is out of hate,” said Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley. “It is the most dastardly act that one could possibly imagine, and we will bring that person to justice. … This is one hateful person.”

The attack came two months after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man, Walter Scott, by a white police officer in neighboring North Charleston that sparked major protests and highlighted racial tensions in the area. The officer has been charged with murder, and prompted South Carolina lawmakers to push through a bill helping all police agencies in the state get body cameras.

In a statement, Gov. Nikki Haley asked South Carolinians to pray for the victims and their families and decried violence on religious places.

“While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we'll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another,” Haley said.

Soon after Wednesday night’s shooting, a group of pastors huddled together praying in a circle across the street.

Community organizer Christopher Cason said 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.”

Even before Scott’s shooting in April, Cason said he had been part of a group meeting with police and local leaders to try to shore up better relationships...

And at the Charleston Post and Courier, "Nine shot, multiple fatalities reported in downtown church shooting":
Nine people were shot, some fatally, inside one of Charleston’s oldest and most well known black churches tonight. A bomb threat complicated the investigation and prompted police to ask nearby residents to evacuate.

Reporters and other onlookers huddled at the scene awaiting details on what could prove to be one of the worst mass shootings in South Carolina history.

Mayor Joe Riley confirmed there were fatalities.

“We’re still gathering information so it’s not the time yet for details,” he said. “I will say that this is an unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy in this most historic church, an evil and hateful person took the lives of citizens who had come to worship and pray together.”

Riley said city police were being assisted by sheriff’s deputies, the State Law Enforcement Division and the FBI.

Police and emergency vehicles swarmed several blocks surrounding Henrietta and Calhoun streets, just east of Marion Square. Barricades blocked off several streets to traffic, and police asked nearby residents to leave their homes.

The shooting occurred around 9 p.m. inside Emanuel AME Church at 110 Calhoun St. Police were seen exiting the 19th century church, and their presence extended blocks beyond the site.

Police were still looking for the gunman late Wednesday, and helicopters are hovering above. Police spokesman Charles Francis described the suspect as a 21-year-old white male in a gray sweatshirt/hoodie and jeans with Timberland boots. He has a slender build.

There are victims involved, but police have not said how many. No deaths have yet been reported. A chaplain is on the scene.

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, said he has been talking with Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon and said, “It’s my understanding that there are some very serious injuries and possibly deaths.”

And the update, "Nine dead after ‘hate crime’ shooting at Emanuel AME."

Also at Memeorandum.