Dylann Roof, 21, has reportedly confessed to killing nine black church-goers at a Bible study meeting in Charleston, SC, on Wednesday night. He’s slated to appear at a bond hearing later this afternoon. South Carolina governor Nikki R. Haley reportedly wants him to face the death penalty for his actions.
One of the victim’s cousins reportedly said that, during the massacre, Roof announced:
“You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”
An investigator has also stated that Roof said he’d intended to “start a race war.”
Roof’s killing spree is being investigated as a hate crime, and many are wondering why it hasn’t officially been labeled a terrorist attack (per the NY Times, some feel that “assailants who are white are far less likely to be described by the authorities as terrorists”).
The names of the nine victims have been released (read about them here), and, disturbingly, a Snapchat video from Wednesday night allegedly shows Roof at the table with the prayer group moments before he opened fire on them.
UPDATE: June 18, 2015, 1:55pm:
Charleston church-massacre suspect Dylann Roof has been arrested “without incident” in Shelby, North Carolina.
Roof’s father reportedly gave him a gun for his 21st birthday, according to CNN. Police are investigating whether he was affiliated with hate groups, and an official reportedly said, “Witnesses say the gunman stood up [at the church prayer meeting] and said he was there ‘to shoot black people.”
UPDATE: June 18, 2015, 10:27 am:
Police have identified the suspect in the Charleston church shooting as Dylann Roof, 21. He’s reportedly from the Columbia area and has been arrested twice before on drugs and trespassing charges, according to The Post and Courier. A hate crime investigation has been opened into last night’s church massacre.
Original Story – June 18, 2015, 10 am:
Last night, a young, white man entered an historic African-American church in Charleston, SC. According to reports, he sat down and quietly observed for about an hour while people prayed. Then, around 9 pm, the man opened fire, killing nine in what Charleston Chief of Police Greg Mullen has called a racially-motivated “hate crime.”
Among the dead is the church’s Rev. Clementa Pinckney (who was also a SC state senator), as well as Pinckney’s sister. The other names haven’t yet been released. One person or more are believed to have survived the attack.
According to the New York Times, 8 people died on the spot at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, while one victim passed away en route to the hospital. It’s unclear how many others were in the church at the time of the massacre.
Surveillance cameras captured the young shooter, and an intense search has been underway since last night. Police described him, per The Times, as “a cleanshaven white man who was about 21 with sandy blond hair and wearing a gray sweatshirt, bluejeans and Timberland boots.”
“This is a very dangerous individual,” Chief Mullen said, according to MSN. “We want to identify this individual and arrest him before he hurts anyone else.”
The city’s mayor, Joseph P. Riley Jr., described this attack of terror “an unfathomable and unspeakable act by somebody filled with hate and with a deranged mind.”
N.A.A.C.P. president Cornell William Brooks echoed that sentiment, saying, “There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of scripture.”
There was a false alarm around 10:45 pm last night when cops were seen handcuffing a man who resembled the described shooter; later they admitted he was, unfortunately, not the perpetrator they’re looking for. The hunt continues.
Nationwide, folks are tweeting in solidarity with the hashtag #IAmAME, and ever since the brutal crime took place, mourners have been gathered outside the church praying, grieving, and hopelessly trying to answer the question of “Why?”.
The church, which was erected in 1891, is one of America’s oldest African-American congregations. It’s reportedly been deemed a historically significant building by the National Parks Service.
Read more: NY Times
Photo: Charleston Police Department