Gunman Kills 9 In Hate Crime At South Carolina Church

Photo via AP Photo/David Goldman
A white gunman entered a historic South Carolina church and killed nine people — six women and three men — on Thursday night. Three others were shot, but survived. Police say the man had been participating in a Bible study group with the victims for over an hour before he killed them. The slaughter is being labeled as a hate crime by Charleston chief of police, Greg Mullen. The dead include Reverend Clementa Pinckney, a South Carolina senator, and his sister. Eight of the nine victims died on the spot; one was rushed to the hospital, but died on the way. "This is a situation that is unacceptable in any society, especially in our society and our city,” Chief Mullen said this morning. “We are leaving no stone unturned,” he said. A manhunt is underway for the killer, who police described as a younger white man about 21 years old, wearing a gray sweatshirt, blue jeans, and Timberland boots. Photos of the man taken from surveillance footage at the church were released this morning. There appears to be little doubt that race motivated the shooting. "The only reason someone would walk into a church and shoot people that were praying is hate," Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said. Governor Nikki R. Haley asked for the prayers of South Carolinians, saying, “We’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another." According to the National Parks Service, the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site of the shooting, is home to the oldest black congregation south of Baltimore. One of the church's cofounders, a former slave named Denmark Vesey, attempted to incite a slave revolt in the city in 1822. The plan was thwarted by authorities and Vesey was executed. In the hours following the tragedy, people knelt in the streets and prayed. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush cancelled plans to appear in Charleston today, while the news shook attendees at a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton on Wednesday night. Expressions of grief and sadness are flooding social media. Singer Solange Knowles tweeted, "Was already weary. Was already heavy hearted. Was already tired. Where can we be safe? Where can we be free? Where can we be black?"

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