9 dead in shooting at historic Charleston African American church.
“I do believe this is a hate crime,” the police chief, Greg Mullen, said at a late night briefing, without explaining the basis for his conclusion. He said as far as he knew there was only a single gunman.
Authorities said the victims were involved in a prayer meeting at the time of the shooting.
They are hunting a white male, described by police as clean-shaven, in his early 20s with a small build, wearing a gray sweatshirt, blue jeans and Timberland boots.
“This is the most unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy,” said Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley. “People in prayer, coming together, praying and worshiping God, to have an awful person come in and shoot them is inexplicable, obviously the most intolerable and unbelievable act possible.”
The “message is there was one hateful person who did this dastardly deed,” the mayor said at a late night meeting.
Police said there were survivors but did not say how many or what condition they were in.
The Charleston Police Department has not yet identified the victims. Police said the shooting occurred about 9 p.m. at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church between Henrietta and Calhoun streets near Marion Square in downtown Charleston.