Dylann Roof attended church about an hour before opening fire on everyone inside. No one in the congregation had ever seen this man but didn’t question his presence because it’s church, and the doors of the church are always open. Nine people were killed, including the pastor. A 5-year old girl ‘played dead’ to survive. The gunman reportedly told one of his victims he was letting her live so she could tell what happened. 21-year old Dylann Roof is now in custody.
At a press conference Thursday morning, Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley called the shooting “the most unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy.”
“The only reason that someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is out of hate,” Riley said. “It is the most dastardly act that one could possibly imagine, and we will bring that person to justice. … This is one hateful person.”
Authorities are investigating the shooting as a hate crime. The Emanuel AME Church where the crime took place is a historically black congregation. Witnesses have reportedly said the killer declared he was there “to shoot black people.”
Sylvia Johnson, cousin of Pastor Clementa Pinckney who was killed at the church, told NBC News that one of the survivors told her the gunman reloaded five times and told a victim, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”
We ask that you pray for all of those who tragically lost a loved one.