9 fatally shot at historic black church in Charleston, S.C.
Friend says church shooting suspect ranted about race
LEXINGTON, S.C. (AP) — In recent weeks, Dylann Storm Roof reconnected with a childhood buddy he hadn’t seen in five years and started railing about the Trayvon Martin case, about black people “taking over the world” and about the need for someone to do something about it for the sake of “the white race,” the friend said Thursday.
On Thursday, Roof, 21, was arrested in the shooting deaths of nine people during a prayer meeting at a historic black church in Charleston — an attack decried by stunned community leaders and politicians as a hate crime.
In the hours after the Wednesday night bloodbath, a portrait began to take shape of Roof as someone with racist views and at least two recent run-ins with the law. On his Facebook page, the young white man wore a jacket with the flags of the former white-racist regimes of South Africa and Rhodesia.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Joseph Meek Jr. said he and Roof had been best friends in middle school but lost touch when Roof moved away about five years ago. The two reconnected a few weeks ago after Roof reached out to Meek on Facebook, Meek said.
Roof never talked about race years ago when they were friends, but recently made remarks out of the blue about the killing of unarmed black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida and the riots in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, Meek said.
“He said blacks were taking over the world. Someone needed to do something about it for the white race,” Meek said, adding that the friends were getting drunk on vodka. “He said he wanted segregation between whites and blacks. I said, ‘That’s not the way it should be.’ But he kept talking about it.”
Prayer services in Prince George’s County for South Carolina victimsWTOP/Mike MurilloWASHINGTON -- The tragedy that unfolded Wednesday in South Carolina has sent shock waves across the nation. In Prince George’s County on Thursday night, members of the religious community gathered at Jubilee United Church of Christ to discuss the shooting and bring about healing through
The purpose of the event was to allow people from the community to come and lament, according to the church’s pastor Reverend Marvin Silver.
Police believe on Wednesday night, after attending a Bible study, 21-year-old Dylann Roof opened fire at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in
Charleston, killing nine people. The event has religious leaders across the country worried.
“My concern moving forward of course is security as probably any pastor and church leader is thinking about right now,” Silver said.
Thursday’s service was organized by the Prince George’s County NAACP. President Bob Ross said he was shocked by the attack, but feels a non-violent response is necessary.
"We have to put pressure on our lawmakers to work on gun reform here in the country,” Ross said.
Ernest Gooding, of Bowie, Maryland, said he is praying for the family of the victims, and the family of the man accused of committing the crime.
“We’ve got to work through this and see what we can do, to see that this doesn’t happen again,” Gooding said.
Among those in attendance was Eugene Grant, the mayor of Seat Pleasant, Maryland, who said protections are needed for places of worship.
“The church, the synagogue, the mosque, the temple, must be a sacred place,” Grant said.
“Race is an issue in the country,” said Lisa Ransom, of Prince George’s County. Even though it may be a difficult topic, she said a discussion on race needs to take place.
Cassandra Freeman, with the Prince George’s County NAACP, said sadly these tragedies can happen anywhere.
“Despite racial differences, we as a community have to come together,” Freeman said.
Updated at 3:38 p.m. June 18, 2015:
WASHINGTON -- Charleston, South Carolina coroner Rae Wooten has released the names of those shot and killed in a historic black church Wednesday night. Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Sharonda Singleton; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr.; and DePayne Doctor were killed after a man allegedly gunned them down during bible study.
Dylann Storm Roof, 21, was captured during a traffic stop in North Carolina less than an hour before mourners and community members were expected to gather for a prayer vigil. Police Chief Greg Mullen said that Roof was found after a citizen "did exactly what we asked them to do" after seeing a suspicious vehicle, and Roof was cooperative when arrested.
Mullen said there was no reason to believe that anyone else was involved in the shooting.
The Charleston Post-Courier reports that Roof is from the Columbia, South Carolina, area. He is said to have sat at a prayer meeting for about an hour before opening fire at the Emanuel AME Church at around 9 p.m.
Three people survived the shooting. House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford says that among those killed at the church was the church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, 41, a married father of two who was elected to the state house at age 23, making him the youngest member of the House at the time.
President Barack Obama called the mass shooting a tragedy and said that that he knew Pinckney and other members of the congregation. But he said he is not just heartbroken but angry.
"I've had to make statements like this too many times. Communities have had to endure tragedies like this too many times," Obama said during a brief statement from the White House. "Once again innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun."
"At some point it's going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it and for us to be able to to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively," the president said.
This April 2015 photo released by the Lexington County (S.C.) Detention Center shows Dylann Roof, 21. Charleston Police identified Roof as the shooter who opened fire during a prayer meeting inside the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, June 17, 2015 night, killing several people. (Lexington County (S.C.) Detention Center via AP)
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that a hate-crimes investigation had begun.
Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley called the shooter a "horrible person," and added that he had gotten calls from Vice President Joe Biden, who knew Pinckney and the church, and from President Obama and offered to make any necessary federal resources available.
The mayor also announced the formation of the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, started with $5,000 from the city, for people in the city and around the country to help. Anyone who wants to help can donate to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, P.O. Box 304, Charleston, SC, 29402.
Gov. Nikki Haley broke down momentarily while addressing a news conference.
“We woke up today and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken,” she said through tears. “And so we have some learning to do. And we have some change we have to go through. Parents are having to explain to their kids how they can go to church and feel safe, and that’s not something we ever thought we’d deal with.”
Two Charleston reporters, citing members of Pinckney's family and another are pastor, say the gunman reloaded several times.
The attack came two months after the fatal shooting of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer in neighboring North Charleston that sparked major protests and highlighted racial tensions in the area. The officer has been charged with murder, and the shooting prompted South Carolina lawmakers to push through a bill helping all police agencies in the state get body cameras. Pinckney was a sponsor of that bill.
Soon after Wednesday night’s shooting, a group of pastors huddled together praying in a circle across the street.
Community organizer Christopher Cason said he felt certain the shootings were racially motivated.
“I am very tired of people telling me that I don’t have the right to be angry,” Cason said. “I am very angry right now.”
Even before Scott’s shooting in April, Cason said he had been part of a group meeting with police and local leaders to try to shore up relations.
The Emmanuel AME church is a historic African-American church that traces its roots to 1816, when several churches split from Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal church.
One of its founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to organize a slave revolt in 1822. He was caught, and white landowners had his church burned in revenge. Parishioners worshipped underground until after the Civil War.
"Mother Emanuel is in fact more than a church, this is a place of worship that was founded by African Americans seeking liberty. This is a church that was burned to the ground because its worshipers worked to end slavery....this is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America," President Obama said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Gunman feared ‘blacks were taking over the world’
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A former friend who had reconnected with the man accused of a shooting massacre inside a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, said Dylann Storm Roof had become an avowed racist.
Joey Meek reconnected with Roof a few weeks ago and said that while they got drunk together on vodka, Roof began complaining that “blacks were taking over the world” and that “someone needed to do something about it for the white race.”
World shocked at enduring racism, gun violence in US
Often the target of U.S. human rights accusations, China wasted little time returning such charges following the shooting at a historic black church in South Carolina that left nine people dead. Elsewhere, the attack renewed perceptions that Americans have too many guns and have yet to overcome racial tensions.
Some said the attack reinforced their reservations about personal security in the U.S. — particularly as a non-white foreigner — while others said they’d still feel safe if they were to visit.
Roof charged with nine counts of murder
Dylann Roof is charged with nine counts of murder in the shootings at a black church in Charleston.
My heart goes out to the friends and families of the victims. What a senseless act of violence. I hope we have some sort of national epiphany and understand that the ONLY way this will EVER stop is if we have stricter gun laws. But I fear money talks and we simply lack the ability to commit to an issue and see it through. Even if it might save ourselves or our children.
Noon vigil planned at M Street churchThe tragedy of the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC demands that people of faith, civic-minded persons and people who abhor violence come together to pray for the victims and for our country.The service, which will include prayers and music, will be a one hour service.Metropolitan AME Church, the National Cathedral of African Methodism, is located at 1518 M Street, NW, Washington, DC. The public is invited.For further information, contact the church at 202-331-1426.
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