Nine killed in South Carolina church

Police seek shooter while community mourns loss of life

CHARLESTON, SC | June 18, 2015

Nine people, including the church pastor, were killed about 9 o'clock Wednesday night during a prayer meeting at the historic Emanuel AME Church.

All of the dead were reported to be African Americans and the shooter is reported to be a young white man. "An evil and hateful person took the lives of citizens who had come to worship and pray together,” said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley according to The Post and Courier newspaper.

A family assistance center staffed by members of the Charleston Coastal Chaplaincy and others was opened for family members of the victims. Members of local churches joined chaplains at the center Wednesday night.

According to early reports, at least three people survived the horrific incident.

Greg Mullen, the city's police chief, Thursday morning released a clip from a surveillance video that is thought to show the suspect in the shooting.

"This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience," said Mullen. "It is unfathomable that somebody in today’s society would walk into a church when people are having a prayer meeting and take their lives."

Reportedly the gunman entered the church and initially sat down for a time during the prayer meeting before standing up and opening fire.

The church's pastor and SC State Senator State Sen. Clementa Pinckney. 41, had been active in South Caroline politics since being elected to the state legislature 20 years ago.

The church is the South's oldest African American church south of Baltimore.

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