A librarian and recent college graduate are among the nine people killed by a white gunman in a black church in downtown Charleston.
State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Church, had already been identified as one of those killed.
Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said Thursday the others have been identified as Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Sharonda Singleton; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr.; and DePayne Doctor.
Sanders had recently graduated from Allen University. Hurd worked for Charleston County’s library system for 31 years. Doctor was an enrollment counselor at Southern Wesleyan University’s Charleston Campus, according to a friend.
From the Associated Press
The suspect in a Charleston AME church shooting that killed nine, including state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, Wednesday night was captured Thursday in Shelby, N.C., authorities say.
Authorities named 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, of the Columbia area, as the suspect in the massacre at Emanuel AME church. Pinckney, a longtime South Carolina legislator who was pastor of the church, is among the dead.
In a news conference around 11:45 a.m. Thursday, Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said Roof was arrested after a traffic stop in Shelby, a town about 45 miles outside of Charlotte.
Police received a tip from a citizen about a suspicious vehicle.
Mullen would not talk about whether the suspect admitted to the crime or whether police found any weapons in the vehicle.
Mullen said Roof was cooperative with the officer who stopped him. Authorities believe that Roof acted alone.
Mullen said police received a number of tips after surveillance videos were released publicly.
SLED agents and Charleston officers are travelling to North Carolina to help process the scene, Mullen said.
Law enforcement officials from multiple agencies were gathered at 10428 Garners Ferry Road in Eastover, Roof’s last known address, earlier Thursday. The address is listed on court records from Roof’s arrest in March on a drug-possession charge.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley spoke after Mullen, saying “a terrible human being... is now in custody.”
Gov. Nikki Haley also spoke, praising the efforts and courage of law enforcement and thanking the state and nation for their outpouring of support and prayers.
“We woke up today and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken. And so we have some grieving to do, and we've got some pain to go through,” Haley said. “Parents are having to explain to their kids how they can go to church and feel safe, and that is not something we ever thought we’d deal with.”
President Barack Obama decried the killings as further evidence of the need for a national reckoning on gun violence in America.
The president said that all too often, he has been called to the microphone to mourn the deaths of innocents killed by those “who had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”
“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,” Obama said. “It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. It is in our power to do something about it.”
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in an 11:30 a.m. news conference Thursday, called the killings an “egregious crime” and said the FBI and the justice department are working with local agencies to bring the case to justice.
State senator, Allen University grad among victims
Six females and three males were killed in the massacre Wednesday night at the historically black Emanuel AME church in downtown Charleston.
Authorities believe Roof spent about an hour inside the church, where a prayer meeting was taking place, before opening fire around 9 p.m. Pinckney, a Jasper County Democrat who served in the General Assembly for 18 years and pastored Emanuel AME since 2010, was among the dead.
State Rep. Joe Neal, D-Richland, said he drove to Charleston about midnight to be with Pinckney’s wife and was there when she heard the news that the senator was among the shooting victims. She had asked Neal to come down, he said.
“No one knew the status,”' he said. “They had gathered all the familes together at the Embassy Suites Hotel ... and they would call the families in one by one, and tell them that their loved ones were deceased.”
Neal, who represents the lower Richland County area southeast of Columbia, said Pinckney was a close friend whom he met when Pinckney was a page in the South Carolina House during the 1990s. Neal said he was among the lawmakers who encouraged Pinckney to run for public office.
“I was so impressed with him, that I joked with him that, ‘You ought to run for the House,’ and he did. And he won,” Neal said. “He was such a level-headed, honest, great guy you just couldn’t help but like him.’’
Neal said he believes the shooting was racially motivated. The state needs to have an “honest discussion about race relations,” he said. Neal said, however, that he does not think there is any support politically for gun control.
“I just don’t see even this changing the fanaticism of some people for guns being everywhere and in everyone’s hand – that is the tragedy of all this,’’ Neal said. “We don’t seem to learn the lessons that putting guns in everyone’s hands regardless of their mental state is a time bomb waiting to explode.’’
The president of Allen University in Columbia confirmed that a second of its alumni, in addition to Pinckney, is among the victims killed in the shooting.
A statement from university president Lady June Cole named Tywanza Sanders, of Charleston, as one of the dead. He was a 2014 Allen graduate in business administration.
“He was a quiet, well-known student who was committed to his education,” Cole said. “He presented a warm and helpful spirit as he interacted with his colleagues. Mr. Sanders was participating in the Bible study session at Mother Emanuel church at the time of the shooting.”
Cole described Sanders as an outgoing student with an “inkling toward entrepreneurship.”
“We're in mourning, and we are praying for the families of the victims,” Cole said. “We hope that everyone will just respect their loss as well.”
Suspect may have been racially motivated
Roof may have had “white supremacist leanings,” the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that fights anti-Semitism and bigotry, said in a statement.
The suspect’s Facebook profile photo shows him wearing a jacket with two patches, one of them the flag of South Africa’s former apartheid-era regime, which has been adopted as a “hate symbol” by white supremacists, it said.
The second patch is the flag of the former white-controlled regime of Rhodesia, which became Zimbabwe after the end of white rule, the statement said.
On Roof’s Facebook page, he is listed as friends with a number of African Americans.
South Carolina NAACP President Lonnie Randolph said there is still a large racism problem in the fabric of South Carolina.
“This is a state that feels that it is okay to fly the Confederate flag in front of our State House,” Randolph said. “Now that is a welcome to have on your State House grounds, isn't it? ... We need to work together to make the lives of (Pinckney's) children better in South Carolina.”
Randolph said the best course of action moving forward is to remain “on the side of doing right.”
“I urge the members of our organization and the state to remember that two wrongs don't make a right,” Randolph said. “We all need to project a better image of South Carolina. We set the bar real low when it comes to respecting human life.”
According to Reuters News Service, the suspect’s uncle, Carson Cowles, said Roof was given a .45-caliber pistol by his father as a 21st birthday present in April.
Cowles said he recognized Roof in a photo released by police and described him as quiet and soft-spoken, according to Reuters.
Roof faces a charge for narcotics possession in Lexington County following an arrest Feb. 28 by Columbia police at Columbiana Centre mall following “a couple of store complaints,” an arrest record shows.
He had a bottle containing what police believe to be suboxone pills, it said.
Roof told officers he was given the bottle by a friend, it said.
According to Lexington 1 school district officials, Roof attended Carolina Springs Middle School in eighth grade and White Knoll High School in ninth grade.