Police and federal officials in Charleston, S.C., have announced the arrest of a suspect in connection with the killing yesterday of nine people at an historic black church in that city. According to an updated Reuters report, the suspect has been identified as 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof.
Roof was apprehended about 200 miles away, in Shelby, N.C. His arrest came about 14 hours after the shooting. Police say that Roof, who is white, entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a prayer meeting, sat down with black parishioners for nearly an hour, and then suddenly opened fire. Police have described Roof’s actions as racially motivated. Federal officials were called to the scene to investigate the shooting as a possible hate crime.
Among the victims, six females and three males, only one so far has been identified pending notification of next of kin. The identified victim was Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was the church’s pastor as well as Democratic state senator.
Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of Pinckney, told NBC News that she had spoken with a survivor of the shooting who said that the gunman reloaded five times. The survivor also reportedly told Johnson that the gunman sat next to Pinckney during a Bible study session and said just prior to opening fire:
I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.
A man who identified himself as Roof’s uncle said he had recently been given a .45-caliber handgun as a birthday present by his father and that the 21-year-old had seemed adrift. Roof, who is described as having white supremacist leanings, was charged on two separate occasions earlier this year with a drug offense and trespassing
Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican, is quoted as having told reporters, “It is a very, very sad day in South Carolina, but it is a day that we will get through.”