Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
A white man opened fire Wednesday evening inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killing nine.
This story is being updated as more information becomes available.
A white man opened fire Wednesday evening inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, shooting at least 10 people who were gathered inside for Bible study.
Nine people were killed in the slaying, including South Carolina State Senator Clementa C. Pinckney, who served as pastor at Emanuel AME Church, an historic black house of worship.
Dylann Storm Roof—whom the FBI named as the suspect in the shootingon Thursday morning—was apprehended by police about 250 miles from Charleston in Shelby, North Carolina. Charleston Police Department chief Greg Mullen said he did not resist arrest after he was stopped in traffic.
“This is a most unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy,” said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley during a press conference in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The Post and Courier reports that six women and three men were killed in the massacre. Their identities have not been released.
Police released surveillance-camera photos on Thursday that revealed the shooter, thought to be Roof, a young white man who wore his hair in a bowl cut. He was dressed in heavy clothes uncharacteristic for the weather. In a disturbing twist, the shooter appears to have attended the Bible-study meeting for an hour before opening fire.
Scenes of grace and chaos marked the crisis in Charleston over night. Members of a wounded church and community maintained a prayer circle nearby, asking God for answers. Meanwhile, police hurried reporters and residents away from the area after a bomb threat was called in against the Courtyard Marriott hotel across the street from the church after the 9 p.m. shooting.
Just after the shooting, law-enforcement officers took one person into custody who fit the description of the suspect. (Police later released this individual, a Charleston photographer named Austin Rich.) It was not immediately clear whether the shooting and the bomb scare were related; police announced the end of the bomb scare at about 1 a.m. on Thursday morning.
A Facebook account matching Roof’s name features a profile picture of a young man (by all appearances Roof) wearing a jacket with patches of the flags of Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa—states that sanctioned terrorism against black Africans. Reuters reports that Roof’s father gave him a .45-caliber firearm for his 21st birthday.
Mullen described the Emanuel AME Church shooting as an unanimbiguous hate crime. (It remains to be seen whether the murders will be prosecuted as a hate crime in federal court.) Local investigators are working with state law enforcement and the FBI to find the shooter.
According to police, eight people were killed inside during the shooting. Two more victims were taken to area hospitals, where one of them died. The status of the other victim was not clear at press time.
The church makes for a tragic backdrop for an act of terrorism. Known to many as the “Mother” Emanuel AME Church, it is one of the oldest black churches in the South. Denmark Vesey, a former slave, planned a major slave revolt from the church in 1822. The 193rd anniversary of the failed uprising happened just this week, just days before Juneteenth.
Beyond its historical significance, the Mother Emanuel AME Church remains a vital part of a busy area in downtown Charleston.