On Wednesday night, an unidentified man shot and killed nine people at the historically all-black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Aside from a few recently released surveillance photos, very little is known about the suspect, which is why the Charleston Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying the man responsible for what police chief Greg Mullen has repeatedly called a “hate crime.”
Here’s what we know:
- Sometime after 9 p.m., the Charleston Police Department responded to a shooting in the area of the church.
- As more reporters arrived on the scene, it became readily apparent that the shooting had actually occurred in the church. That’s about when the national media began carrying the story. Photos and videos of police and emergency vehicles just outside the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston flooded social media.
- By all accounts, an unknown white male walked into the church during a prayer meeting. However, he didn’t immediately start shooting — he actually attended the meeting for about an hour. It wasn’t until some time later that the suspect opened fire on the very congregation he’d earlier been a part of.
- Eight people died at the scene, while a ninth victim didn’t recover from their injuries after being taken to the hospital. Six were men, whereas three were women.
- Mullen told reporters there were three survivors, but wouldn’t elaborate.
- Police released surveillance photos of the suspect and his vehicle on Thursday. They also described him as a white male, 5’9″ and 21 to 25 years of age.
- “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind this is a hate crime,” the police chief said Thursday morning, adding “This is a situation that is unacceptable in any society, and especially in our society and our city.”
- Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said the shooter was “an evil and hateful person took the lives of citizens who had come to worship and pray together.”
- Gov. Nikki Haley also spoke out, saying “While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”
- The Justice Department has opened a hate crime investigation into the shooting:
- According to reports, witnesses claim the shooter exclaimed, “You rape our women and are taking over our country” and “you have to go.” He also reloaded his weapon(s) at least five times.
We’ll update this space as more information about the suspect becomes available.
UPDATE — 10:22 a.m. ET: The shooting suspect has been identified as Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old resident of Eastover, South Carolina. He drives a black Hyundai Elantra and is considered armed and dangerous.