CHARLESTON, S.C. – Dylan Roof, 21, is accused of opening fire in a Charleston, South Carolina church Wednesday.
According to police reports, Roof opened fire in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killing nine people. Eight people died on scene and the ninth died at the hospital. Said Mayor Joe Riley, “People in prayer Wednesday evening. A ritual, a coming together, praying, worshiping God. An awful person to come in and shoot them is inexplicable.”
New reports are coming to light, including pictures. It is now known that Roof sat in the church for close to an hour before he started shooting. He reloaded his weapon five times. A witness to the event told law enforcement that Roof stood up to say that he was in the church to “shoot black people.”
Roof, driving his vehicle, was stopped by police shortly after 10:30 a.m. Roof was the only person in the vehicle and was armed with a gun. It is not currently clear whether or not that weapon was the one used in the mass shooting.
The suspect does not have a lengthy rap sheet. Roof was arrested in February for possession of prescription medication that was not his own, and he was arrested for trespassing in April. The outcome of those arrests is unknown.
The victims have been identified as Myra Thompson, 59; Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45; Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., 74; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; Cynthia Hurd, 54.
A woman who survived the shooting was told by Roof, ‘I’m not going to kill you, I’m going to spare you, so you can tell them what happened.’
The shooting is being investigated as a hate crime. It is not currently clear, at this point in the investigation, whether Roof had a specific target or targets in mind, or if he targeted the church itself.
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has been open since 1816. The church has been central to civil rights activity over its years. At one point in history, the church was burned to the ground and rebuilt. At another point, the church was destroyed in an earthquake. The church is the largest in terms of capacity among Charleston churches.
Riley, the city’s mayor for 40 years, said, “We are going to put our arms around that church and that church family.”