“At least nine people have been killed after a gunman opened fire at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in what police have described as a “hate crime”.
Police released a image of the gunman and a car from video at a press conference on Thursday. The suspect, who is still on the loose, has been described as a clean-shaved, white male aged approximately 21, with a small, slender build, wearing a grey sweatshirt with jeans and boots.
Gunfire erupted on Wednesday inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church, whose pastor Clementa Pinckney, a Democratic member of the South Carolina Senate, was named as one of the dead.
Eight of the victims were killed in the church. Another died on the way to hospital. Charleston police chief Greg Mullen said there were survivors, but declined to give more details.
The gunman had yet to be caught hours after the attack and was considered extremely dangerous, he said.
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston. Alamy
Mullen said he believed the shooting was “a hate crime”. He said: This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience … It is senseless, unfathomable. We are going to do everything in our power to find this individual, to lock him [the gunman] up, to make sure he does not hurt anyone else. [snip]
Police have not named the victims but the Democratic party leader in the South Carolina state house confirmed pastor and state senator Pinckney was among the dead. “He was always out doing work either for his parishioners or his constituents. He touched everybody,” minority leader Todd Rutherford told AP.
Pinckney helped lead a prayer vigil in April for Walter Scott, a black South Carolina man who was shot dead by a North Charleston police officer. He campaigned for police to be equipped with body cameras, which he said “may not be the golden ticket, the golden egg, the end-all-fix-all, but [would help] to paint a picture of what happens during a police stop”. Mandatory body cameras became law in the state one week ago.
The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church traces its roots to 1816 and is one of the largest black congregations south of Baltimore. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr addressed the church in 1962.”
Eight people were dead when police arrived on the scene, following an emergency call on Wednesday evening just after 9pm local time. A ninth person died later in hospital.
Three people survived the attack, police said. There are unconfirmed reports that the suspect allowed one of the survivors to leave the church so she could report what happened. The police are continuing to interview survivors.
“Rev John Paul Brown, who will be leading prayers for the victims in Charleston, has urged the community against any retaliation for the attack. Speaking to WBTV he said: “At this point there is so much healing that is needed.” He said if the community chose to fight violence with violence it would lose. “As a faith community we would kill everything that we stand for [if we resorted to violence].”
He then added this cryptic appeal” “Somebody knows something and we are depending that those people who know something think about the humanity about what should be done. And I believe it’s going to be a quick resolve.”
No, don’t give up, don’t give in. No words can describe the pain you all must feel, but hold together….somehow. Find strength in your community, not in those politicians who will exploit your grief for their own ends. It will be impossible for you not to remember the bombing of the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham this week; nor should any of us.
The nine dear souls murdered:
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, an assistant pastor at the church who also worked as an athletics coach and speech specialist at a nearby school.
Tywanza Sanders, 26, who was a 2014 graduate of Allen University in the state capital, Columbia, where he got a degree in business administration.
According to his Facebook page, Sanders was originally from Charleston but was living in Columbia. An aspiring rapper who went by the name Fresh Wanza, according to the entertainment site Heavy.com, his songs included the titles Whats Wrong With Just Being Black and Making It. A friend told the site that Sanders was working as a barber at the time of his death.
He died while protecting his auntie, 87-year-old Susie Jackson, putting himself between her and the murderer’s bullet. Both died. He wrote extensively on racial discrimination, and his last post on the social media site was a quote by African-American baseball player Jackie Robinson, saying: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives”. Yes, he walked the walk magnificently.
Ethel Lee Lance, 70, was a sexton at the church and worked in Charleston for 30 years. Upon hearing of her murder, her grandson Jon Quil Lance said, “I’m lost, I’m lost; Granny was the heart of the family.”
Susie Jackson, 87, was a longtime Emanuel AME Church member and a cousin of Ethel Lee’s.
Cynthia Hurd, 54, was a regional branch manager from the Charleston County Public Library system, “a tireless servant of the community who spent her life helping residents, making sure they had every opportunity for an education and personal growth.”
Daniel L. Simmons Sr. was a retired pastor from another church in Charleston. His daughter-in-law, Arcelia Simmons of Newport News, Va., told ABC News that Simmons attended Emanuel AME Church every Sunday for services and Wednesdays for Bible study. He is listed on the church’s website as a member of the ministerial staff.
DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49, was an enrollment counselor at Southern Wesleyan University’s Charleston campus, a friend told The Associated Press. She joined the church at the beginning of the year and soon began teaching Wednesday evening Bible class. On her LinkedIn page, she listed herself as a “management professional.” A mother of four daughters, she was a minister who sang in the church choir, the Post and Courier reported.
The Reverend Clementa Pinckney, 41 was the pastor of Emanuel AME church and a state senator a fellow senator called the “moral conscience of the General Assembly.”
Myra Thompson, 59, was a former school teacher & Bible study teacher. Thompson was leading the prayer service when shots rang out.
May you find peace as you continue you next journeys, and may your families and friends eventually find some measure of comfort, and use your senseless murders to help ensure such killings….stop.
All I’ve been able to find about the three survivors, although I’ve lost the link:
“The woman who survived, whose name has not been publicly released, had blood on her dress when she was speaking to Johnson on Wednesday night. Both the survivor and her granddaughter reportedly evaded the gunman by pretending they were dead.
The survivor’s son, who was in his 20s, was also at the Bible study but he was fatally shot after he tried to check on Pinckney and directly engaged the shooter. (So she must be Tywanza Sanders’ mother.)
The survivor, who is elderly, who spoke with Johnson and her 5-year-old granddaughter are two of the three people who survived the shooting. According to Johnson, when the gunman saw the elderly woman was alive, he asked her, “Did I shoot you?”
When the elderly woman said “No,” the gunman said, “Good, because I need someone to survive,” and said he was going to shoot himself, the survivor told Johnson. “And you’ll be the only survivor.”