Officials: Suspect in church slayings unrepentant amid outcry over racial hatred

Original post from Washington Post

‘……………………..By Jeremy Borden, Sari Horwitz and Jerry Markon

A 21-year-old white man accused of murdering nine people in a historic black South Carolina church makes his first court appearance. (Reuters)

The gunman charged with killing nine people in an African American church was unrepentant during a confession to police, even after almost backing out of what he called his “mission” because church members were so nice to him, according to law enforcement officials and others briefed on the investigation.

Dylann Roof not only confessed to causing the Wednesday night carnage in Charleston, but said he wanted his actions known, said the law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is unfolding. They said Roof espoused strong anti-black views when questioned by officers.

But the 21-year-old also told police he had briefly reconsidered his plan during the time he spent quietly watching a Bible study group before opening fire, two people briefed on the investigation said. Roof “said he “almost didn’t go through with it because they were so nice to him” one of the people said, before concluding: “I had to complete my mission.”

As he methodically fired and reloaded several times, the person said, Roof called out: “You all are taking over our country. Y’all want something to pray about? I’ll give you something to pray about.”

Roof’s words added to an emerging portrait that suggests the 21-year-old was driven by runaway racial hatred in the attacks — unleashed after Roof spent nearly an hour watching the group before opening fire, authorities said.

Dylann Roof is in custody after police say he opened fire at a historic African American church in Charleston, SC. Here’s a look at the 21-year-old’s background, including recent arrests, and what authorities say happened inside the church. (Alice Li/The Washington Post)

Left dead were the church’s prominent pastor and eight other worshippers.

Authorities on Friday announced that Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. He then appeared in court for an extraordinary bond hearing in which relatives of the dead, given the chance to confront him, instead offered him forgiveness and said they were praying for him.

Judge James B. Gosnell Jr. ordered Roof held without bond on the murder charges but set a $1 million bond on the firearm charge. It was unclear if prosecutors would seek the death penalty and if Roof had an attorney.

Meanwhile, a federal civil rights investigation into the attacks was underway, which authorities said will be conducted along with the state probe. Federal officials have described it as a hate crime investigation.

South Carolina’s governor urged her state’s prosecutors to seek the death penalty for the shootings inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the South’s oldest African American church. “We will absolutely will want him to have the death penalty,” Gov. Nikki Haley told NBC’s “Today” show.

Outpourings of sorrow and expressions of anger and disbelief have spilled from Charleston and across the country. In Charleston, a major prayer vigil was scheduled for later Friday as the city’s mayor, Joseph P. Riley Jr., called the slayings an act of “pure, pure concentrated evil.”

In Washington, a solemn President Obama voiced “sadness and anger” on Thursday and wondered what it would take to push lawmakers to tighten the nation’s gun laws. On a visit Friday to a U.S. military base in northern Italy, first lady Michelle Obama said she prays “for a community that I know is in pain.”

About the same time in front of the AME church in Charleston, three nuns in blue habits read a Bible passage amid a sidewalk piled high with flowers, wreaths and balloons.

That message of peace contrasted with what friends and law enforcement officials said was the profile of Roof coming to light piece by piece. It suggested a downward trajectory of racial suspicions, misguided rage andunsettling plots — which were expressed to others, but apparently never passed to authorities as warnings.

A one-time acquaintance of Roof’s recalled that the suspect would rant that “blacks were taking over the world” as the pair got drunk on vodka.

Roof railed that “someone needed to do something about it for the white race,” said the former friend, Joseph Meek Jr., the Associated Press reported.

Roof’s former roommate, Dalton Tyler, told ABC News that Roof seemed to have been plotting some kind of violence “for six months.”

“He said he wanted to start a civil war,” Tyler said. “He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.”

After a nearly 15-hour manhunt that ended when Roof’s car was spotted in North Carolina, the case now turns to questions that include how he obtained the weapon and why no one alerted authorities as Roof apparently sharpened his racial diatribes and threats.

A Snapchat video taken shortly before the shooting and obtained by appears to show a white man sitting with the black parishioners around a table in a church meeting room at Emanuel AME, one of the oldest black churches in the nation.

The man was offered a chance to join the discussion on the Scriptures, but declined. Shortly after, he opened fire.

Witnesses told authorities they never saw the man pull out the gun. Instead, they saw him start shooting, up close, targeting each victim with precision. The man took the time to reload the handgun “several times,” officials said.

Afterward, eight people lay dead and a ninth lay dying. Among the victims was the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, Emanuel AME’s charismatic pastor, who also served in the South Carolina Senate and once sponsored a resolution praising a high school senior for an award-winning speech in favor of tighter gun laws.

Authorities identified the other victims as the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, who is the mother of a Charleston Southern University student; Cynthia Hurd, 47, the manager of the St. Andrews Regional Library in Charleston; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; DePayne Middleton; Tywanza Sanders, 26; and Myra Thompson, 59. Daniel Simmons, 74, died at the hospital

Roof allegedly spared one woman, one law enforcement official said, so she could tell others what had happened.

When Roof was arrested — about 250 miles from Charleston — he had a Glock .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun that law enforcement officials said he had obtained in April, either receiving it as a birthday gift or buying it himself with birthday money. The gun was purchased legally, officials said.

A troubled loner who dropped out of school in ninth grade and had a history of small-time arrests, Roof maintained a Facebook page that seems to reflect his worldview. The profile picture shows him scowling in a wooded swamp, wearing a jacket with at least two conspicuous patches: the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and the former white-ruled Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen said Roof “was cooperative with the officer who stopped him” near Shelby, N.C. He waived extradition to South Carolina and was flown back to Charleston late Thursday.

It was unclear why Roof fled to Shelby. His home in Eastover is near Columbia, South Carolina’s state capital, about 130 miles to the south, but his sister’s fiance, Michael Tyo, lives in Shelby.

The shooting was the deadliest attack on a place of worship in the United States since 1991, when nine people were killed at the Wat Promkunaram temple near Phoenix. Johnathan Doody, tried three times for the execution-style murders at the Buddhist temple, was sentenced in 2014 to 249 years in prison.

For some, the shooting evoked memories of the 1963 Birmingham bombing, in which Ku Klux Klan member planted dynamite on the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four African American girls.

“For such a heinous act to be perpetrated in a house of God more than a half a century after the 16th Street tragedy is a reminder to us all that we must be ever vigilant and work as one community to call out and eliminate racial hatred,” said Doug Jones, the former U.S. attorney who prosecuted some of the Klan members.

Pictures from the South Carolina State House showed a black cloth draped at the desk where Pinckney sat in the Senate. The Confederate flag continued to wave outside.

Vice President Biden, who had seen Pinckney last year at a prayer breakfast in Columbia, S.C., called the shooting an “act of pure evil and hatred.”

“Hate has once again been let loose in an American community,” Biden and his wife, Jill, said in a statement. “And the senseless actions of a coward have once again cut short so many lives with so much promise.”

Horwitz and Markon reported from Washington. Jeremy Borden in Columbia, SC; Anne Gearan in Charleston; Ken Otterbourg in Shelby and Brian Murphy, J. Freedom du Lac, Mark Berman, Lindsey Bever, Sarah Larimer, Elahe Izadi, Jose A. DelReal, Thad Moore, Ishaan Tharoor, Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.

Read more:

Sari Horwitz covers the Justice Department and criminal justice issues nationwide for The Washington Post, where she has been a reporter for 30 years.

Jerry Markon covers the Department of Homeland Security for the Post’s National Desk. He also serves as lead Web and newspaper writer for major breaking national news.   ………’



Nine Killed at Historic Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina

Original post from NBC News

‘…………….by , , and

Nine People Killed At South Carolina Church 11:41

A gunman remained at large early Thursday after nine people were shot and killed in Charleston, South Carolina, during a Bible study session at one of the nation’s oldest African-American churches, authorities said.

“I do believe this was a hate crime,” Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen said early Thursday near the scene at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

At a 6 a.m. ET press conference, investigators released an image of the suspect and said he had left the church in a black four-door sedan.

The suspect being sought in the wake of Wednesday’s mass shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C. Charleston Police Department

“Regardless of how small the people think that their information might be we want them to call us,” Mullen said. He called on the public to be “vigilant” but to not approach the suspect.

The suspect was described as slender white male aged 21 to 25, who was about about 5ft 9in tall with a bowl cut.

Police did not release the car’s make but Mullen said it had a “very distinctive license plate.”

Charleston suspect's car Charleston Police Dept.
Charleston suspect’s car Charleston Police Dept.

The victims included the church’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, 41, a Democratic member of the state Senate, two sources told NBC News.

Mullen said police were called on a report of a shooting at the church at 9:05 p.m., and when officers arrived there they found eight people dead and others injured. Two of the wounded were rushed to a hospital, and one of those victims later died, he said.

“This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience. It is senseless,” Mullen said. “It is unfathomable that somebody in today’s society would walk into a church, when people are having a prayer meeting, and take their lives.”

Police described the suspect as wearing a gray sweatshirt or hoodie, jeans and Timberland boots. Mullen characterized the gunman as “extremely dangerous.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were among the law enforcement agencies assisting in the search for the gunman, Mullen said.

“I can assure you that we are going to do everything in our power to find this individual, to lock him up, and to make sure that he does not to hurt anyone else,” Mullen said.

Known as “Mother Emanuel,” the church is the oldest AME church in the South, having been founded in 1816 under the leadership of abolitionist minister Morris Brown, the second bishop of the AME Church in the U.S. The Gothic Revival-style church is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“I’m just absolutely sick to my stomach right now. It’s horrible,” Lisa Phipps, who works across the street as a caterer, told NBC News.

“I just can’t believe this is happening in my community,” Phipps said. “That’s a very active church. … Their influence is wonderful. They do so much for the community. I can’t imagine a human being doing something like this.”

Cornell William Brooks, the president and CEO of the NAACP, added: “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 attack came two months after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man, Walter Scott, 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.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican who represents South Carolina, called the shooting a “senseless tragedy” and said he was making arrangements to return to the state from Washington, D.C., as soon as possible.

“Tonight we stand together in prayer for Pastor Pinckney and his congregation at Emanuel AME, and for the families who are enduring unimaginable pain at the loss of their loved ones,” Scott said. “We will come together as a city and as a state to lift up those who need us most right now.”

Mayor Joe Riley Jr. said that the gunman had to be a “hate-filled person.”

The Rev. Joseph Darby, a prominent pastor who knew Pinckney, told MSNBC that the shooting was “not surprising.”

He added: “This is the product of what happens when those who spout divisive and bigoted rhetoric speak to people who do not respond to words with thought but to words with action. This is the epitome of a hate crime … This is sadly familiar, it is a shame that in the 21st century this happens.”

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who had been scheduled to campaign Thursday in Charleston, canceled the events “due to the tragic events unfolding in South Carolina tonight,” his campaign said.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was in South Carolina campaigning earlier Wednesday but left the state before the shooting took place. “Heartbreaking news from Charleston — my thoughts and prayers are with you all,” she said in a tweet.

n a statement early Thursday, Gov. Nikki Haley asked everyone to “please join us in lifting up the victims and their families with our love and prayers.”

The Rev. Norvel Goff, presiding elder of the Edisto District of the state conference of the AME Church, said a prayer vigil would be held at noon Thursday.



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