Charleston Church Shooting: Suspect Arrested, Was With Victims Before Opening Fire

Charleston Church Shooting: Suspect Arrested, Was With Victims Before Opening Fire
Lumières des Ames_2 rimaried / Flickr CC BY 2.0

The suspect who fatally shot nine people inside a historical black church in Charleston, S.C. – an incident that is being investigated as a hate crime – has been arrested, authorities said on Thursday.


The suspect was identified by the police as a 21-year-old Dylann Roof, white male, of Lexington, S.C. He was arrested at 10:49 a.m. on Thursday, a search that continued from the previous night, during a traffic stop in Shelby, N.C. Officials further said that Roof was “cooperative” with the officers. A law enforcement official briefed on the investigation revealed that Roof had a gun in his possession during the arrest; however, it has not yet been determined whether it was the same weapon used in the incident.

According to TIME, Police Chief Greg Mullen said on Thursday that the suspect was in a meeting in the Emanuel AME Church before he opened fire and killed three women and two men. Images of the suspect show that he entered the church at 8:17 a.m., and stayed there until he began shooting at 9:05 p.m.

He is believed to have acted alone.

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At a press conference just prior to the arrest, Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley said, “We don’t let bad people like this get away with these dastardly deeds.”

Of the nine victims, eight had died when the police arrived at the scene; the ninth was taken to the hospital but was later pronounced dead. Including the victims was the church’s pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

Mullen said that the police were communicating with three survivors. The county coronary said at a press conference on Thursday that it was “obvious” the victims had perished because of gunshot wounds. The nine victims had been identified as Cynthia Hurd, Suzy Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. Depayne Middleton, Rev. Clementa Pinckney , Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Summons Sr., Myra Thompson and Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.

Sylvia Johnson, Rev. Pinckney’s cousin, heard about the incident from one of the survivors who was a close friend of hers, as reported by CNN. Johnson said her friend told her that Roof asked for the minister when he entered the church.

Johnson said, “My cousin, being the nice, kind, welcoming person he is, he welcomed him to his congregation, welcomed him to the Bible study, and he sat there for an hour … At the conclusion of the Bible study, they just heard just a ringing of a loud noise, and it was just awful from what I heard.”

When her friend’s son asked the gunman to stop, he said, “’No, you’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country … I have to do what I have to do.’ And he shot the young man.”

Johnson’s friend pretended to be dead on the floor. “But she watched her son fall and laid there. She laid there in his blood,” Johnson said.

Mayor Riley said, “People in prayer Wednesday evening. A ritual, a coming together, praying, worshiping God. An awful person to come in and shoot them is inexplicable.”

According to Roof’s roommate, Dalton Tyler, the suspect had been “planning something like that for six months.”

According to ABC News, Tyler said, “He was big into segregation and other stuff. He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.”

Rev. John Paul Brown, a Charleston minister, requested that people not seek retribution for the attack, saying, “At this point there is so much healing that is needed. As a faith community we would kill everything that we stand for [if we resorted to violence].”

Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the incident is being investigated by the Department of Justice as a hate crime.

Lynch said, “Acts like this one have no place in our country and no place in a civilized society.”

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