A white gunman killed nine people during a prayer meeting at one of Charleston’s oldest and best-known black churches Wednesday night in one of the worst mass shootings in South Carolina history.
Heavily armed law enforcement officers scoured the area into the morning for the man responsible for the carnage inside Emanuel AME Church at 110 Calhoun St. At least one person was said to have survived the rampage.
Police revealed no motive for the 9 p.m. attack, which was reportedly carried out by a young white man. Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said, “I do believe this was a hate crime.”
Mayor Joe Riley called the shooting “a most unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy.”
“An evil and hateful person took the lives of citizens who had come to worship and pray together,” he said.
Authorities did not identify the dead.
State Sen. Clementa Pinckney is the church’s pastor and was believed to be inside during the shooting. Authorities would not confirm that he was wounded, but church members, friends and political colleagues said he was among the dead.
Riley said city police were being assisted by sheriff’s deputies, the State Law Enforcement Division and the FBI.
Mullen pledged to put all efforts, resources and energy into finding the gunman.