BY AP & BTL STAFF
CHARLESTON, S.C. — According to the Associated Press, a white man who joined a prayer meeting inside a historic black church and then fatally shot nine people was captured without resistance June 18 after an all-night manhunt, Charleston’s police chief said.
Dylann Storm Roof, 21, spent nearly an hour inside the church June 17 before killing six women and three men, including the pastor, Chief Greg Mullen said. A citizen and childhood friend of Roof spotted his car through a surveillance camera image in Shelby, North Carolina, nearly four hours away.
The chief wouldn’t discuss a motive. Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. called it “pure, pure concentrated evil.”
Stunned community leaders and politicians condemned the attack on The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Justice Department has begun a hate crime investigation.
President Barack Obama, who personally knew the slain pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, said these shootings have to stop.
“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” Obama said.
“This massacre is frighteningly reminiscent of the tragedies of another era taking place in churches in the south. While many would like to think that our nation has eliminated racism and discrimination, this appalling act of hate shows that we have not. As this violent epidemic, the targeting and killing of black people, continues with no end in sight — it becomes ever more clear that it is everyone’s responsibility to end all forms of racism and discrimination. No one, absolutely no one, should ever fear for their lives when stepping out of their homes, walking down the street in their own neighborhood or attending a prayer services in their place of worship,” said Rea Carey, the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force.
Pinckney, 41, was a married father of two who spent 19 years in the South Carolina legislature. He became the youngest member of the House when he was first elected as a Democrat at 23.
Roof had been to jail: state court records show a pending felony drug case and a past misdemeanor trespassing charge.
He also displayed the flags of defeated white-ruled regimes: a Confederate flag was on his license plate and a photo on his Facebook page shows him wearing a jacket with stitched-on flag patches from Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa.
ÒToday we are once again tragically reminded of the serious and widespread problem we face as a nation with violent, hate-motivated crimes — a problem which we as a nation must commit to addressing. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the communities impacted by this horrific and senseless tragedy in Charleston seemingly targeted because of their race. As this heinous crime reverberates across the entire country, we stand united with allies and friends nationwide to end the cycle of violence motivated by hatred,” said Chad Griffin, president of the HRC.
Roof wasn’t known to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., and it’s not clear whether he had any connection to the 16 white supremacist organizations operating in South Carolina, but he appears to be a “disaffected white supremacist” based on his Facebook page, said the center’s president, Richard Cohen.
The shooting evoked painful memories of other attacks. Black churches were bombed in the 1960s when they served as organizing hubs for the Civil Rights movement, and burned by arsons across the South in the 1990s. Others survived shooting sprees.
This particular congregation, which formed in 1816, has its own grim history: A founder, Denmark Vesey, was hanged after trying to organize a slave revolt in 1822, and white landowners burned the church in revenge, leaving parishioners to worship underground until after the Civil War.
This shooting “should be a warning to us all that we do have a problem in our society,” said state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, a Democrat whose district includes the church. “There’s a race problem in our country. There’s a gun problem in our country. We need to act on them quickly.”
“Of all cities, in Charleston, to have a horrible hateful person go into the church and kill people there to pray and worship with each other is something that is beyond any comprehension and is not explained,” Riley said. “We are going to put our arms around that church and that church family.”
NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks said “there is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people.”
A few bouquets of flowers tied to a police barricade outside the church formed a small but growing memorial.
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, which increased racial tensions. The officer awaits trial for murder, and the shooting prompted South Carolina to pass a law, co-sponsored by Pinckney, to equip police statewide with body cameras.
BY AP & BTL STAFF