It’s heartbreaking, says Obama of Charleston church shooting
PRESIDENT Barack Obama has condemned the killing of nine people in a historic black South California church in the United States, describing the incident as “heartbreaking.”
He said that the church was historic for blacks in the community, as it occupied a sacred place in the history of America. Obama noted that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) operatives are on ground with more still expected to help the local police uncover the mystery behind the shooting.
“The suspect is in custody and the best of law enforcement officials are in place to ensure that justice is served,” Obama said. “I have had to make statements like this too many times.
We don’t have our facts, but we do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone had no troubles getting a gun.
Now is the time for mourning and healing, but let’s be clear that we, as a country, will have to recognise the fact that this mass violence is not happening in advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it,” he added.
The man, Dylann Roof, suspected of killing nine people on Wednesday night at an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, was arrested yesterday morning about 245 miles (395 kilometers) away in Shelby, North Carolina, law enforcement authorities said. Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina, was taken into custody without incident about 11:15 a.m. during a traffic stop, Charleston police, Chief Greg Mullen, said yesterday morning.
He said local police were acting on a be-on-the-lookout (BOLO) notice that included a vehicle description, the licence tag and the suspect’s name. Roof was armed with a gun when he was arrested, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation.
It’s not clear if it’s the same firearm he allegedly used in the shooting. A senior law enforcement source told CNN the suspect’s father had recently bought him a .45-caliber gun for his 21st birthday. The slayings took place on Wednesday night inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, near the heart of Charleston’s tourist district.
The man spent an hour in a prayer meeting before he opened fire, Mullen said yesterday morning. A law enforcement official says witnesses told them the gunman stood up and said he was there “to shoot black people.”
Police were searching for information about Roof. A picture of him on social media showed him wearing a jacket with what appear to be the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and nearby Rhodesia, a former British colony that was ruled by a white minority until it became independent in 1980 and changed its name to Zimbabwe.
Six females and three males were killed, Mullen said. Three people survived, including a woman who received a chilling message from the shooter.
“Her life was spared, and (she was) told, ‘I’m not going to kill you, I’m going to spare you, so you can tell them what happened,’ “ Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott told CNN. Scott said she heard this from the victims’ family members.
Federal authorities have opened a hate crime investigation into the shooting at the oldest AME church in the South, the Department of Justice said. “The only reason someone would walk into a church and shoot people that were praying is hate,” Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said. Among the victims was the church’s politically active pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, his cousin, South Carolina state Senator Kent Williams, told CNN.
Pinckney was also a state senator and one of the black community’s spokesmen after the slaying of an unarmed man by a North Charleston police officer this year.
There were 13 people inside the church when the shooting happened – the shooter, the nine people who were killed and three survivors, South Carolina state Sen. Larry Grooms, who was briefed by law enforcement, told CNN.
Two of the survivors were not harmed, he said. It was not clear if the man targeted any individual. “We don’t know if anybody was targeted other than the church itself,” Mullen said. Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has been a presence in Charleston since 1816, when African-American members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church formed their own congregation after a dispute over burial grounds. It was burned to the ground at one point, but rebuilt.
Throughout its history, it overcame obstacle after obstacle – destroyed by an earthquake, banned by the state. But its church members persevered, making it the largest African-American church in terms of seating space in Charleston today.
Mullen said video cameras at the church showed a suspect is in his early 20s, standing 5 feet, 9 inches tall. Police said he may be driving a black Hyundai with vehicle tag LGF330. Police described the gunman as clean-shaven with a slender build and sandy blond hair.
He was wearing a gray sweatshirt, blue jeans and Timberland boots. Yesterday morning, police handed out images of the man and his car taken from surveillance footage and asked for the public’s help in identifying him. Officials said they thought he was still in the Charleston area, but they contacted law enforcement authorities elsewhere to be on the lookout.
Authorities said they were shocked not only by the killings but that the violence occurred in a house of worship. “People in prayer Wednesday evening. A ritual, a coming together, praying, worshiping God.
An awful person to come in and shoot them is inexplicable,” Mayor Riley said. The killing put the nation’s spotlight once again on the Charleston region.
Several months ago, Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, was fatally shot in the back by a North Charleston police officer, a killing that was captured on video. Pinckney backed a bill to make body cameras mandatory for all police officers in South Carolina. “Body cameras help to record what happens.
It may not be the golden ticket, the golden egg, the end-all-fix-all, but it helps to paint a picture of what happens during a police stop,” Pinckney said in April. Riley, who’s seen Charleston go through ups and downs during his 40 years as mayor, said the city must immediately start the healing process. A community prayer meeting will be held Friday at the College of Charleston, not far from the church, he said.
“We are going to put our arms around that church and that church family.” After the shooting, church and community members converged on the area to pray in the street, often while holding hands. Dot Scott, the NAACP leader, said family and friends of the victims gathered at the Embassy Suites motel near the church after the shooting. The city set up a victims’ assistance center there.
“There were at least 50 or more people there,” she said. “There were families of the victims, grandchildren, council members and a bunch of people there.” Scott said that’s where she heard about the shooter sparing the woman in the church. “I did not hear this verbatim from the almost victim, I heard it from at least half a dozen other folks that were there and family of the victims,” she said.
“There seems to be no question that this is what the shooter said.” The church sits in an area of Charleston densely packed with houses of worship and well-preserved old buildings.
The streets of the neighborhood are normally filled with tourists. Charleston, as several church leaders pointed out, is known as the “Holy City” because of its numerous churches and tolerant attitude toward different denominations. Early yesterday morning, residents stood in circles, hands clasped and heads bowed, as they prayed.
“Like everybody out here, we’re sick to our stomachs that this could happen in a church,” said Rep. Dave Mack, a friend of the church’s pastor. They called for justice, but also for calm. Theirs is a strong community, they said, and this incident wouldn’t tear them apart.