Tue | Apr 25, 2017

Manhunt on for gunman who killed nine at US church

Published:Thursday | June 18, 2015 | 6:36 AM
Images on a flier provided to media, today, by the Charleston Police Department show surveillance footage of a suspect wanted in connection with a shooting yesterday at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (AP):

An intense manhunt was underway today for a young white man who joined a prayer meeting and then opened fire inside a historic black church in downtown Charleston, killing nine people, including the pastor.

Authorities called it a hate crime.

Charleston Police identified him as Dylann Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina.

"This is a very dangerous individual," Police Chief Greg Mullen said. "We want to identify this individual and arrest him before he hurts anyone else."

The gunman stayed for nearly an hour at the prayer meeting Wednesday night before shooting the victims — six females and three males, Mullen said.

Roof's childhood friend, Joey Meek, alerted the FBI after recognising him in a surveillance camera image that was widely circulated, said Meek's mother, Kimberly Kozny.

Roof had worn that sweatshirt over to their house many times as they played Xbox videogames in recent weeks, she added.

"He was a really sweet kid. He was quiet. He only had a few friends," Kozny said.

The Emanuel AME Church's pastor, state Senator Clementa Pinckney, was among those killed, state legislator Todd Rutherford told The Associated Press.

Pinckney, 41, was a married father of two who was elected to the state House of Representatives at 23, making him the youngest member of the House at the time.

"He never had anything bad to say about anybody, even when I thought he should," Rutherford said. "He was always out doing work either for his parishioners or his constituents. He touched everybody."

This shooting "should be a warning to us all that we do have a problem in our society," said state Representative Wendell Gilliard, a Democrat whose district includes the church. "We need action. There's a race problem in our country. There's a gun problem in our country. We need to act on them quickly."