Family Members to Alleged Charleston Gunman: 'I Forgive You'

Dylann Roof could not see the people speaking to him Friday. / CBS News
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By: CBS News
June 19, 2015

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Today, the nation witnessed one of the most extraordinary scenes ever in an American courtroom.

Families of the nine people gunned down during a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina faced the alleged killer and told him about the precious lives that were wrenched away from them.

And many in these deeply religious families forgave him, because that is what their religion teaches.

Ethel Lance, 70, left five children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren behind. A daughter spoke for the family.

"I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul," she said. "It hurts me, it hurts a lot of people, but God forgive you and I forgive you."

Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, was a mother of four. A sister spoke for the family.

"We have no room for hate. We have to forgive. I pray God on your soul. And I also thank God that I won't be around when your judgment day comes with him," she said.

Tywanza Sanders, 26, reportedly tried to shield the others from the gunman. His mother addressed his accused killer.

"We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms," she said. "You have killed some of the most beatiful people that I know. Tywanza Sanders was my son, but Tywanza was my hero. Tywanza was my hero. But as we said in Bible study, we enjoyed you, but may God have mercy on you."


By: WCTV Eyewitness News
June 19, 2015

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Police brought Dylann Roof back to Charleston Thursday night, a city left heartbroken after one of the deadliest mass shootings in state history.

He is scheduled to appear at a bond hearing via video link Friday on charges he shot 9 people to death inside an historic black church Wednesday night, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues.

City officials announced a prayer vigil for Friday evening. A memorial continues to grow outside the church.

"The heart and soul of South Carolina was broken, and so we have some grieving to do," said Gov. Nikki Haley. Choking up, she continued, "We have some pain we need to go through. Parents are having to explain to their kids how they can go to church and feel safe."

Roof entered the Emanuel AME Church around 8 p.m. Wednesday, authorities say. He spent a full hour mingling with parishioners before he stood up, declared he was there to kill black people and opened fire, Pegues says.

At the end of the murderous rampage, six women and three men were dead.

A Snap Chat video reportedly taken by one of the few survivors of the attack shows a small group of people gathered together inside the church. All of them are black except for one man.

It's now believed that person was the alleged shooter, Roof, Pegues says.

He evaded capture for more than 12 hours, until police pulled over his black Hyundai in Shelby, North Carolina, 250 miles from Charleston.

"Once we got the surveillance photos out, we started to receive tips, which led to the ability to make the arrest," Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen told reporters.

That tip came from Debbie Dills, a florist who was running late for work. She says she looked into the car next to hers and recognized the bowl-cut hair of the accused gunman.

"I was directly behind him at a stoplight and everything going through my mind was what ifs, what ifs. But the only thing I could see was those people in Charleston, in those prayer circles, in their hands gathered around praying that prayer would be answered," she said.

Sources say Roof made incriminating statements linking him to the Charleston shooting and was arrested without incident.

In his car, a .45 caliber pistol matching the casings found at the church.

It was thought the gun was given to Roof by his father for his recent 21st birthday, Pegues notes.

But The Associated Press quotes an acquaintance of Roof's, Joey Meek, as saying Roof used birthday money from his parents to buy the gun himself.

Meek, a former friend who reconnected with Roof a few weeks ago, said that while they got drunk on vodka, Roof complained that "blacks were taking over the world" and declared that "someone needed to do something about it for the white race."

The FBI, which is involved in a federal hate crime investigation of the shooting, has interviewed both of Roof's parents, Pegues says.

Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley Jr. said, "The arrest of this awful man is an important part for all of us in this community and in our country to begin the necessary process of our healing together."

He described the shooting at the church as an act of "pure, pure concentrated evil."

The victims included a state senator who was also the church's minister, three other pastors, a regional library manager, a high school coach and speech therapist, a government administrator, a college enrollment counselor and a recent college graduate.

President Obama called the tragedy yet another example of damage caused by guns in America.

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." Others bemoaned the loss to a church that has served as a bastion of black power for 200 years, despite efforts by white supremacists to wipe it out.

"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," said Riley. "We are going to put our arms around that church and that church family."

Surveillance video showed the gunman entering the church Wednesday night, and initially didn't appear threatening, Charleston County Coroner Rae Wilson said.

"The suspect entered the group and was accepted by them, as they believed that he wanted to join them in this Bible study," she said. Then, "he became very aggressive and violent."

Meek called the FBI after recognizing Roof in the video, down to the stained sweatshirt he wore while playing videogames in Meek's home the morning of the attack.

"I knew it was him," Meek told The Associated Press after being interviewed by investigators.

During their reunion a few weeks ago, Roof said he had bought a .45-caliber Glock pistol and that he had "a plan," Meek said, adding that it scared him enough that he took the gun out of Roof's car and hid it in his house until the next day.

It's not clear whether Roof had any connection to the 16 white supremacist organizations operating in South Carolina.

On his Facebook page, Roof displayed the flags of defeated white-ruled regimes, posing with a Confederate flags plate on his car and wearing a jacket with stitched-on flag patches from apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, which is now black-led Zimbabwe.

His police record includes misdemeanor drug and trespassing charges.

Spilling blood inside a black church -- especially "Mother Emanuel," founded in 1816 -- evoked painful memories nationwide, a reminder that black churches so often have been the targets of racist violence.

A church founder, Denmark Vesey, was hanged after trying to organize a slave revolt in 1822, and white landowners burned the church in revenge. Decades later, the congregation rebuilt and grew stronger, eventually winning campaigns for voting rights and political representation.

Its lead pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney - among the dead - recalled his church's history in a 2013 sermon, saying "we don't see ourselves as just a place where we come to worship, but as a beacon and as a bearer of the culture."

"What the church is all about," Pinckney said, is the "freedom to be fully what God intends us to be and have equality in the sight of God. And sometimes you got to make noise to do that. Sometimes you may have to die like Denmark Vesey to do that."

Pinckney, 41, was a married father of two and a Democrat who sserved 19 years in the South Carolina legislature.

The other victims were Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; and the reverends DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Sharonda Singleton, 45; and Daniel Simmons Sr., 74.


Update: CBS News
June 18, 2015

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- A white man who joined a prayer meeting inside a historic black church and then fatally shot nine people was captured without resistance Thursday after an all-night manhunt, Charleston's police chief said.

Dylann Storm Roof, 21, spent nearly an hour inside the church Wednesday night before killing six women and three men, including the pastor, Chief Greg Mullen said.

According to a law enforcement source, an eyewitness told authorities that Roof stood up in The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and said he was there to shoot black people and then made some derogatory remarks, CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton reports.

In Shelby, North Carolina, nearly four hours away, Police Chief Jeff Ledford said his department received a tip about a possible sighting of Roof's vehicle Thursday morning. Two officers spotted the vehicle, stopped it and identified the driver as Roof, Ledford said.

During a court appearance Thursday afternoon in North Carolina, Roof waived extradition. He also waived his right to counsel, meaning he will either represent himself or hire his own lawyer.

Roof was taken to a waiting police car wearing a bulletproof vest, with shackles on his feet and his hands cuffed behind his back. A short time later, law enforcement officers escorted him onto a private plane for the flight back to Charleston.

Charleston County Sheriff's Office officials told CBS affiliate WCSC-TV Roof will be held in isolation at the Al Cannon Detention Center.

He is expected to have a bond hearing on Friday and be charged with nine counts of murder.

A federal law enforcement source told CBS News that during his arrest, Roof made incriminating statements indicating he was involved in the shooting.

A .45-caliber gun was found in Roof's car, the law enforcement source told Milton. The gun was apparently purchased by Roof's father for his birthday, the source said. No other weapons were found in the vehicle.

The federal law enforcement source told CBS News that Roof had no address and was more or less homeless, moving around from place to place.

"You can't put your mind around it," the Rev. Norvel Goff, a presiding elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, said about the shooting on "CBS This Morning" Thursday. "You cannot identify this kind of evil on this level because it is so horrific and unbelievable."

Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. called it "pure, pure concentrated evil." Stunned community leaders and politicians condemned the attack, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Justice Department has begun a hate crime investigation.

President 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," Mr. Obama said.

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.

"He had a core not many of us have," said Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who sat beside Pinckney in the Senate. "I think of the irony that the most gentle of the 46 of us - the best of the 46 of us in this chamber - is the one who lost his life."

The other victims were identified as Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; the Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; and the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor.

Sanders had recently graduated from Allen University. Hurd worked for Charleston County's library system for 31 years. Middleton-Doctor was an enrollment counselor at Southern Wesleyan University's Charleston Campus, according to a friend.

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said autopsies would be conducted over the next several days and did not have specific information on how many times the victims were shot or the locations of their injuries.

Roof's childhood friend, Joey Meek, alerted the FBI after recognizing him in a surveillance camera image, said Meek's mother, Kimberly Konzny. Roof had worn the same sweatshirt while playing Xbox video games in their home recently.

"I don't know what was going through his head," Konzny said. "He was a really sweet kid. He was quiet. He only had a few friends."

Roof had a criminal record. 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, Konzny said. A photo on his Facebook page shows him wearing a jacket with stitched-on flag patches from Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa.

Roof wasn't known to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., which tracks hate groups.

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.

On "CBS This Morning," NAACP President Cornell William Brooks called the shooting "morally incomprehensible."

"We need to be clear about this," Brooks said. "This is not only the desecration of the sanctuary; it's a desecration of the soul of the country. The fact that you could have a criminal come into a Bible study - a Bible study is an occasion in which those gathered, who are there to study scripture, it is their responsibility to be welcoming.

"So the fact that you had someone with a gun, this person was likely welcomed, given a Bible, asked to have a seat and encouraged to be a part of this daily, I should say weekly, ritual. So it is morally incomprehensible. This is like a flesh and blood obscenity."

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."

A few bouquets of flowers tied to a police barricade outside the church formed a small but growing memorial.

"Today I feel like it's 9-11 again," Bob Dyer, who works in the area, said after leaving an arrangement of yellow flowers wrapped in plastic. "I'm in shock."

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.

Scott's family said in a statement that they were "thankful" for Roof's arrest.

"It is our hope that justice will come swiftly," the family said.

The shooting of Scott prompted South Carolina to pass a law, co-sponsored by Pinckney, to equip police statewide with body cameras.

"I am very tired of people telling me that I don't have the right to be angry," community organizer Christopher Cason said. "I am very angry right now."


SHELBY, N.C. -- Dylann Storm Roof, the suspect in a deadly rampage at a historic black church in South Carolina, has been arrested in North Carolina, sources tell CBS News.

Greg Mullen, the police chief in Charleston, South Carolina, told reporters that Roof was arrested during a traffic stop in Shelby, North Carolina, around 11:15 a.m.

"He was cooperative with the officer who stopped him," Mullen said.

The shooting took place at the Emanuel AME Church Wednesday night. The suspect attended the meeting at the church and stayed for nearly an hour before the deadly gunfire erupted, Mullen said.

"You can't put your mind around it," the Rev. Norvel Goff, a presiding elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, said on "CBS This Morning" Thursday. "You cannot identify this kind of evil on this level because it is so horrific and unbelievable."

On Thursday morning, a Justice Department spokesperson told CBS News a hate crime investigation was being opened into the shooting, which killed six women and three men, including the church's pastor.

CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues reports from Charleston that three people survived the shooting. Police released few details about their condition.

The pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, 41, was a married father of two who was elected to the state house at age 23, making him the youngest member of the chamber at the time. "He never had anything bad to say about anybody, even when I thought he should," State House Minority leader Todd Rutherford said. "He was always out doing work either for his parishioners or his constituents. He touched everybody."

Goff, who helps oversee the Emanuel AME Church, called Pinckney "a very energetic, promising, very active pastor and political leader in our state, which had a bright future.

"There was no limit to where Rev. Sen. Pinckney would have ended up," Goff said on "CBS This Morning." "But most certainly those of us who knew him, labored with him in the various segments of our community, he was a bridge-builder, he was a family man."

Goff said Pinckney is survived by a wife and two daughters.

Mullen said eight victims were found dead inside the church and the ninth died at a hospital.

On "CBS This Morning," NAACP President Cornell William Brooks called the shooting "morally incomprehensible."

"We need to be clear about this," Brooks said. "This is not only the desecration of the sanctuary; it's a desecration of the soul of the country. The fact that you could have a criminal come into a Bible study - a Bible study is an occasion in which those gathered, who are there to study scripture, it is their responsibility to be welcoming. So the fact that you had someone with a gun, this person was likely welcomed, given a Bible, asked to have a seat and encouraged to be a part of this daily, I should say weekly, ritual. So it is morally incomprehensible. This is like a flesh and blood obscenity."

Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley said the shooting was an "unspeakable tragedy. Inexplicable."

"The only reason that someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is out of hate," said Riley. "It is the most dastardly act that one could possibly imagine."

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."

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 the shooting prompted South Carolina lawmakers to push through a bill helping all police agencies in the state get body cameras. Pinckney was a sponsor of that bill.

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 relations.

In a statement, Gov. Nikki Haley asked South Carolinians to pray for the victims and their families and decried violence at religious institutions. "We'll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another," Haley said.

The campaign of Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush sent out an email saying that due to the shooting, the candidate had canceled an event planned in the city Thursday.

The Emmanuel AME church is a historic African-American church that traces its roots to 1816, when several churches split from Charleston's Methodist Episcopal church.

One of its founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to organize a slave revolt in 1822. He was caught, and white landowners had his church burned in revenge. Parishioners worshiped underground until after the Civil War.


By: CBS News
June 18, 2015

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, including the pastor, in an assault authorities described as a hate crime. The shooter was still at large Thursday morning.

A federal law enforcement source told CBS News that the suspect has been identified as Dylann Storm Roof, 21.

On Thursday morning, a Justice Department spokesperson told CBS News a hate crime investigation was being opened into the shooting.

The shooting took place at the Emanuel AME Church. The suspect attended the meeting at the church Wednesday night and stayed for nearly an hour before the deadly gunfire erupted, Police Chief Greg Mullen said.

"You can't put your mind around it," the Rev. Norvel Goff, a presiding elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, said on "CBS This Morning" Thursday. "You cannot identify this kind of evil on this level because it is so horrific and unbelievable."

Mullen said six of the slain victims were women and three were men. Their identities have not been made public.

CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues reports from Charleston that three people survived the shooting. Police released few details about their condition.

Mullen said police have surveillance video of a possible suspect and vehicle involved in the shooting. He met with reporters early Thursday to distribute the video. Mullen said he couldn't give a specific make and model of the vehicle because they could not be certain from the videoThe suspect is described as a white man thought to be in his early 20s. Mullen said he had no reason to think the suspect has left the Charleston area, but is distributing information about the suspect and the vehicle around the country.

"This is a very dangerous individual," Mullen said during a 6 a.m. news conference. "We want to identify this individual and arrest him before he hurts anyone else," the chief said.

Mullen said he believed it was a hate crime, and called the shooting "senseless."

The pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, 41, was a married father of two who was elected to the state house at age 23, making him the youngest member of the chamber at the time. "He never had anything bad to say about anybody, even when I thought he should," State House Minority leader Todd Rutherford said. "He was always out doing work either for his parishioners or his constituents. He touched everybody.

Goff, who helps oversee the Emanuel AME Church, called Pinckney "a very energetic, promising, very active pastor and political leader in our state, which had a bright future.

"There was no limit to where Rev. Sen. Pinckney would have ended up," Goff said on "CBS This Morning." "But most certainly those of us who knew him, labored with him in the various segments of our community, he was a bridge-builder, he was a family man."

Goff said Pinckney is survived by a wife and two daughters.

Mullen said eight victims were found dead inside the church and the ninth died at a hospital.

Mullen said the scene was chaotic when police arrived, and the officers thought they had the suspect tracked with a police dog, but he got away.

"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." Riley said the shooting was an "unspeakable tragedy. Inexplicable."

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."

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 the shooting prompted South Carolina lawmakers to push through a bill helping all police agencies in the state get body cameras. Pinckney was a sponsor of that bill.

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 relations.

On "CBS This Morning," NAACP President Cornell William Brooks called the shooting "morally incomprehensible."

"We need to be clear about this," Brooks said. "This is not only the desecration of the sanctuary; it's a desecration of the soul of the country. The fact that you could have a criminal come into a Bible study - a Bible study is an occasion in which those gathered, who are there to study scripture, it is their responsibility to be welcoming. So the fact that you had someone with a gun, this person was likely welcomed, given a Bible, asked to have a seat and encouraged to be a part of this daily, I should say weekly, ritual. So it is morally incomprehensible. This is like a flesh and blood obscenity."

In a statement, Gov. Nikki Haley asked South Carolinians to pray for the victims and their families and decried violence at religious institutions. "We'll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another," Haley said.

As police and the city's mayor updated the news media, a group of pastors huddled together praying in a circle across the street.

A few hours after the shooting, authorities began clearing the area after a bomb threat was called in to police dispatchers, reports CBS Charleston affiliate WCSC-TV.

The station also says a man matching the suspect's description who was initially arrested at the scene was later released. The man, identified as local photographer Austin Rich, says he was let go after being questioned.

The campaign of Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush sent out an email saying that due to the shooting, the candidate had canceled an event planned in the city Thursday.

The Emmanuel AME church is a historic African-American church that traces its roots to 1816, when several churches split from Charleston's Methodist Episcopal church.

One of its founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to organize a slave revolt in 1822. He was caught, and white landowners had his church burned in revenge. Parishioners worshiped underground until after the Civil War.


By: CBS News
June 18, 2015

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, including the pastor, in an assault authorities described as a hate crime. The shooter was still at large Thursday morning.

The shooting took place at the Emanuel AME Church, Police Chief Greg Mullen said. He said there were survivors, but would not say how many, or how many were inside at the time of the shooting.

The pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, 41, was a married father of two who was elected to the state house at age 23, making him the youngest member of the chamber at the time. "He never had anything bad to say about anybody, even when I thought he should," State House Minority leader Todd Rutherford said. "He was always out doing work either for his parishioners or his constituents. He touched everybody.

Mullen said eight victims were found dead inside the church and the ninth died at a hospital.

Mullen described the suspect as a white male in his early 20s, with sandy blonde hair. He said he believed it was a hate crime, but would not elaborate. He called the shooting "senseless."

Mullen said the scene was chaotic when police arrived, and the officers thought they had the suspect tracked with a police dog, but he got away.

"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." Riley said the shooting was an "unspeakable tragedy. Inexplicable."

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 relations.

Charleston newspaper The Post and Courier quotes Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott as saying a female survivor told family members the gunman initially sat down in the church for a bit before standing up and opening fire. The gunman reportedly told the woman he was letting her live so she could tell everyone else what happened, Scott said.

In a statement early Thursday, NAACP President and William Brook said, "The NAACP was founded to fight against racial hatred and we are outraged that 106 years later, we are faced today with another mass hate crime. Our heartfelt prayers and soul-deep condolences go out to the families and community of the victims. ... The senselessly slain parishioners were in a church for Wednesday night bible study. There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of scripture."

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 the shooting prompted South Carolina lawmakers to push through a bill helping all police agencies in the state get body cameras. Pinckney was a sponsor of that bill.

In a statement, Gov. Nikki Haley asked South Carolinians to pray for the victims and their families and decried violence at religious institutions. "We'll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another," Haley said.

As police and the city's mayor updated the news media, a group of pastors huddled together praying in a circle across the street.

A few hours after the shooting, authorities began clearing the area after a bomb threat was called in to police dispatchers, reports CBS Charleston affiliate WCSC-TV.

The station also says a man matching the suspect's description who was initially arrested at the scene was later released. The man, identified as local photographer Austin Rich, says he was let go after being questioned.

The victims' identities have not been made public.

The campaign of Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush sent out an email saying that due to the shooting, the candidate had canceled an event planned in the city Thursday.

The Emmanuel AME church is a historic African-American church that traces its roots to 1816, when several churches split from Charleston's Methodist Episcopal church.

One of its founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to organize a slave revolt in 1822. He was caught, and white landowners had his church burned in revenge. Parishioners worshiped underground until after the Civil War.



 
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