White Man Hunted After Black Church Shooting
Police have launched a manhunt after nine people were killed in a mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
The shooting happened at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in downtown Charleston at around 9pm (local time) on Wednesday night.
Police said eight people had died at the scene and a ninth victim died later in hospital. A tenth victim is being treated in hospital.
Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen confirmed the shooting was being investigated as a hate crime.
He vowed to “put all effort, all resources and all of our energy into finding this individual who committed this crime tonight”.
“This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience.
“It is senseless, 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.”
The city’s mayor Joe Riley said: “This is an unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy in this most historic church, an evil and hateful person took the lives of citizens who had come to worship and pray together.”
Shortly after the shooting, people were told to move back after a bomb threat was made in the area, the Reuters news agency reported.
A police spokesman said they were looking for a slim white male suspect, aged around 21, with sandy blond hair and wearing a grey sweatshirt, blue jeans and Timberland boots.
A police helicopter was assisting officers on the ground – wearing bulletproof vests and carrying guns – with the search for the shooter and the FBI were also investigating.
Cameras at the scene filmed police taking a white man in a grey T-shirt into a nearby Marriott hotel – but law enforcement officials said they were still looking for the gunman.
Local media said the more than 150-year-old Emmanuel AME church has a predominantly black congregation and is one of the oldest in the country.
Fox News reported that a bible study session is held in the basement every Wednesday evening.
South Carolina’s House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford says the church’s pastor, Clementa Pinckney, also a state senator, is among the victims of the shooting.
Tearful relatives were seen gathering at the edge of the police cordon, where they were speaking to emergency services workers.
Charleston Governor Nikki Haley said in a statement: “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.”
Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush announced he was cancelling a scheduled appearance in Charleston on Thursday.