Charleston Shooting: Nine Killed At Historically Black Church In Suspected Hate Crime

A shooting in Charleston inside a historically black church has left nine people dead, and police believe the attack was a hate crime.

The shooting took place at Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday night. Police said a while male in his 20s opened fire during a prayer meeting, killing nine people, including State Senator Clementa Pickney.

Pickney had served in the South Carolina House since 1996 and was 23 when he was first elected. He was elected to the state Senate in 2000.

The Beaufort, South Carolina, native graduated magna cum laude from Allen University in 1995 before receiving a master’s of divinity degree from the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of South Carolina.

Details of the Charleston shooting are still emerging, but officials believe the attack was racially motivated.

“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.”

Police have not yet released a total number of victims, but some witnesses say it will be difficult given the number of bodies left inside the church.

“It’s really bad. It’s a very bad scene,” local pastor Thomas Dixon said.

“Apparently the person just entered the church and opened fire. That part has not been fully articulated on what happened yet… they are still looking for the suspect.”

There was previously some confusion as to whether a suspect had been arrested. Reports indicating a man matching the suspect’s description was taken into custody, but police later said the suspect is still at large.

The man apprehended, a local artist, later posted on Facebook that he was mistakenly arrested.

Tonight as many of you may already know I was detained as a suspect for the shooting that took place on downtown Charleston. I want to assure everyone that I am safe and innocent. I was interviewing strangers at the scene when I was mistaken as the shooter because of my grey t shirt, black pants and tan shoes.

Some inside the church who survived the shooting said the gunman entered and stayed for some time before opening fire.

Other witnesses said the shooter was very intentional with his victims.

Police have not named a suspect in the Charleston shooting.

[Image via ABC11]