Police hunt man who killed nine in historic South Carolina black church
CHARLESTON, S.C. - Police in Charleston, S.C., were searching on Thursday for a white gunman who killed nine people in a historic African-American church including the pastor, a black state senator, in an attack the U.S. Department of Justice cal...
CHARLESTON , S.C. - Police in Charleston , S.C. , were searching on Thursday for a white gunman who killed nine people in a historic African-American church including the pastor, a black state senator, in an attack the U.S. Department of Justice called a hate crime. The FBI identified the shooter as Dylann Roof of Columbia, S.C. An uncle of Roof's said he recognized the man in the surveillance photo as his nephew.
"The more I look at him, the more I'm convinced, that's him," said Carson Cowles , 56, in a phone interview.
The gunman, a 21-year-old white man with sandy blond hair, sat with churchgoers inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for about an hour on Wednesday before opening fire, Police Chief Gregory Mullen said.
The U.S. Department of Justice opened a hate crime investigation into the shooting, which follows a string of racially charged killings that have prompted waves of protest across the United States over the past year and sparked the "Black Lives Matter" movement. [ID: nL1N0Z40RV]
Demonstrations have rocked cities including New York, Baltimore and Ferguson , Missouri , following police killings of unarmed black men including Eric Garner , Freddie Gray and Michael Brown .
A white police officer was charged with murder after he shot an unarmed black man in the back in April in neighboring North Charleston .
The victims included Reverend Clementa Pinckney , who was the church's pastor and a Democratic member of the state Senate , according to colleagues.
A cousin of Pinckney's, Sylvia Johnson, told MSNBC that a survivor of the shooting told her the gunman reloaded five times during the attack. Pinckney tried to talk him out of it, she said.
"He just said, 'I have to do it. You rape our women and you're taking over our country," Johnson said.
The gunman is extremely dangerous, Mullen said, and police did not have a sense of where he might be.