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Charleston Church Shooting: 9 Dead At Historic Black Church

Nine people were shot to death by a white man at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday night, the Charleston Police Department confirmed at a news conference early Thursday. Calling it "the worst night of my career," Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said the gunman entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a prayer meeting and opened fire. Eight people were found dead at the scene. Two others were transported to a hospital, where one later died. None of the victims has been named by police. However, State House Minority leader Todd Rutherford said the church's pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, was among those killed, according to the Associated Press.Clementa Pinckney (South Carolina Legislative Services Agency) Mullen said there were others who survived the attack, but he didn't offer details. The suspect is still at large. Police described the gunman as a white male, 21 to 25 years old, 5 foot 9 inches tall and a slender build. He's clean shaven with sandy blond hair that is shaped in a bowl cut, and was last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt, blue jeans and Timberland boots. Early Thursday, police released this image of the suspect, and said that they believe he is still in the area: Mullen said the gunman was spotted in a black sedan with a unique license plate, but did not release a make or model of the vehicle. He urged the public and media to remain vigilant, aware of their surroundings and to contact law enforcement if they see anything suspicious. A reward will be offered, with the amount to be announced later Thursday. "I do believe this is a hate crime," Mullen said. "It will be investigated as a hate crime." “The only reason someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is out of hate,” said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, speaking at the same news conference. “It is the most dastardly act that one could possibly imagine.”The shootings took place around 9 p.m., WCSC reported, and prompted a large police response. At least six ambulances reported to the scene. As police searched for the shooter, worshippers and other members of the community gathered to mourn and pray.Worshippers gather to pray in a hotel parking lot across the street from the Emanuel AME Church. (AP Photo/David Goldman)Religious leaders, activists join in prayer near church. #chsnews pic.twitter.com/12t6x8WgXC June 18, 2015 At around 11 p.m., police began pushing media across the street after a possible bomb threat was reported near the scene of the shooting.Bomb threat called in. Charleston Police. pushing us back across Meeting Street on Calhoun. @WCBD #chsnews pic.twitter.com/emnPIUs5lT June 18, 2015 No bomb was found. Video: Waiting for details on @CharlestonPD scene in downtown #chs #chsnews @ABCNews4 pic.twitter.com/vDvlFlM29n June 18, 2015Dramatic pic by @MatthewFortner of search for gunman in downtown Charleston. #chsnews pic.twitter.com/h7vFO5sVK3 June 18, 2015Police stand outside the Emanuel AME Church following a shooting Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman) The historic black church, commonly referred to as "Mother Emanuel," has been around for hundreds of years. According to the church website, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has "one of the largest and oldest black congregations south of Baltimore, Maryland." One of the church's founding members, Denmark Vesey, organized a slave uprising that started in 1821. Civil rights leaders also visited during the 1960s.Dr. ML King, Jr. visited Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 1962 (Img via @TheKingCenter) pic.twitter.com/3XG4vUSnwo #CharlestionShooting June 18, 2015 The church holds Bible study every Wednesday, reports Fox40. Cornell William Brooks, the president and CEO of the NAACP as well as an AME minister, released a statement on Thursday in which he expressed outrage about the "mass hate crime." "The senselessly slain parishioners were in a church for Wednesday night bible study," Brooks stated. "There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of scripture." The NAACP South Carolina State Conference and Charleston Branch is reportedly working with police and members of the community to bring the case to a close. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) also issued a statement, and urged people to pray for the victims and their families. “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,” she said. “Please join us in lifting up the victims and their families with our love and prayers.” One young man was apprehended by authorities overnight, but was later released. He came forward on Facebook and identified himself as photographer Austin Rich, and said his gray shirt and black pants looked similar to the clothing worn by the suspect. "I understand that the officers were simply doing their job and they did it well," he wrote. "They asked several questions, checked my phone records and told me I was clear to go. I am thankful for the professionalism of the officers on duty, and have a tremendous amount of respect for them as well."Breaking news Day 485Tonight as many of you may already know I was detained as a suspect for the shooting that took... 1,000 Days of Talking with Strangers on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush had been scheduled to campaign in Charleston on Thursday, but has canceled the event.Anyone with information about this incident call 1-800-CALL-FBI. pic.twitter.com/EidJGhNEDp June 18, 2015 This story is developing. Check back for updates. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Nine people were shot to death by a white man at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday night, the Charleston Police Department confirmed at a news conference early Thursday.

Calling it “the worst night of my career,” Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said the gunman entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a prayer meeting and opened fire. Eight people were found dead at the scene. Two others were transported to a hospital, where one later died.

None of the victims has been named by police. However, State House Minority leader Todd Rutherford said the church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, was among those killed, according to the Associated Press.

Clementa Pinckney (South Carolina Legislative Services Agency)

Mullen said there were others who survived the attack, but he didn’t offer details.

The suspect is still at large. Police described the gunman as a white male, 21 to 25 years old, 5 foot 9 inches tall and a slender build. He’s clean shaven with sandy blond hair that is shaped in a bowl cut, and was last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt, blue jeans and Timberland boots.

Early Thursday, police released this image of the suspect, and said that they believe he is still in the area:

charleston church shooting

Mullen said the gunman was spotted in a black sedan with a unique license plate, but did not release a make or model of the vehicle. He urged the public and media to remain vigilant, aware of their surroundings and to contact law enforcement if they see anything suspicious.

A reward will be offered, with the amount to be announced later Thursday.

“I do believe this is a hate crime,” Mullen said. “It will be investigated as a hate crime.”

“The only reason someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is out of hate,” said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, speaking at the same news conference. “It is the most dastardly act that one could possibly imagine.”

The shootings took place around 9 p.m., WCSC reported, and prompted a large police response. At least six ambulances reported to the scene.

As police searched for the shooter, worshippers and other members of the community gathered to mourn and pray.

charleston church shooting
Worshippers gather to pray in a hotel parking lot across the street from the Emanuel AME Church. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

At around 11 p.m., police began pushing media across the street after a possible bomb threat was reported near the scene of the shooting.

No bomb was found.

charleston church shooting
Police stand outside the Emanuel AME Church following a shooting Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The historic black church, commonly referred to as “Mother Emanuel,” has been around for hundreds of years. According to the church website, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has “one of the largest and oldest black congregations south of Baltimore, Maryland.” One of the church’s founding members, Denmark Vesey, organized a slave uprising that started in 1821. Civil rights leaders also visited during the 1960s.

The church holds Bible study every Wednesday, reports Fox40.

Cornell William Brooks, the president and CEO of the NAACP as well as an AME minister, released a statement on Thursday in which he expressed outrage about the “mass hate crime.”

“The senselessly slain parishioners were in a church for Wednesday night bible study,” Brooks stated. “There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of scripture.”

The NAACP South Carolina State Conference and Charleston Branch is reportedly working with police and members of the community to bring the case to a close.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) also issued a statement, and urged people to pray for the victims and their families.

“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,” she said. “Please join us in lifting up the victims and their families with our love and prayers.”

One young man was apprehended by authorities overnight, but was later released. He came forward on Facebook and identified himself as photographer Austin Rich, and said his gray shirt and black pants looked similar to the clothing worn by the suspect.

I understand that the officers were simply doing their job and they did it well,” he wrote. “They asked several questions, checked my phone records and told me I was clear to go. I am thankful for the professionalism of the officers on duty, and have a tremendous amount of respect for them as well.”

Breaking news Day 485Tonight as many of you may already know I was detained as a suspect for the shooting that took…

Posted by 1,000 Days of Talking with Strangers on Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush had been scheduled to campaign in Charleston on Thursday, but has canceled the event.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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Charleston Church Shooting: 9 Dead At Historic Black Church

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