CHARLESTON, S.C. — Dylann Storm Roof, the 21-year-old suspect in the killing of nine people in a historic black church in downtown Charleston, was taken into custody Thursday in Shelby, N.C.
Court records show that Roof has waived extradition; he was flown back to South Carolina.
“We have made an arrest in this case,” a relieved Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen said at a news conference.
He said “a citizen alerted law enforcement to suspicious activity,” leading authorities to make a traffic stop in Shelby, N.C., where the suspect was arrested without incident.
The arrest brought an end to a massive manhunt that began Wednesday night, but South Carolina, along with the rest of the nation, was angered and horrified over the senseless shooting.
“The heart and soul of South Carolina is broken,” said South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who had to compose herself before addressing reporters about the mass shooting. “The outpouring of emotion from this country has been overwhelming.”
President Barack Obama, speaking from the White House, expressed sadness and anger over the shooting, and urged the nation to find a remedy to reduce rampant gun violence.
“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” Obama said.
Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. described the shooting as “pure, pure concentrated evil.”
At Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston, an afternoon service jammed with mourners ended with a chorus of “We Shall Overcome,” the inspiring protest song that served as an anthem for the civil rights movement.
Surveillance footage taken at Emanuel AME Church showed the shooter spent nearly an hour with his would-be victims praying inside the sanctuary before shooting them dead. The cameras recorded him entering the church at 8:16 p.m. The shooting was reported to the authorities at 9:05 p.m.
Six women and three men died, eight of them at the church and one at a hospital, Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen said Thursday morning. He corrected his own report from earlier that two people were sent to the trauma center at Medical University of South Carolina.
The U.S. Justice Department said Thursday that it opened a formal investigation into the shooting as a hate crime.
Three people survived the shooting. Mullen declined to give their names or ages.
The gunman walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after 8 p.m., and the first call to police came shortly after 9 p.m. Among the dead was the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, pastor of the church, who was also a state senator and a cousin of Chiefs safety Sanders Commings.
Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten on Thursday identified the victims as:
▪ S.C. Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor
▪ Cynthia Hurd, 54, a librarian and sister of former N.C. Sen. Malcolm Graham
▪ Tywanza Sanders, 26, a graduate of Allen University
▪ DePayne Doctor, 49, an enrollment counselor at Southern Wesleyan University’s Charleston campus
▪ Sharonda Singleton, 45
▪ Myra Thompson, 59
▪ Ethel Lance, 70
▪ Susie Jackson, 87
▪ The Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74
The city did not place any neighborhoods on lockdown or cancel school Thursday.
Shaken city leaders called the mass shooting an “unfathomable” hate crime.
“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that it is a hate crime,” Mullen said, declining to elaborate other than to say “some information” from the investigation led him to that conclusion. His department is working with local, state and federal agencies, including the FBI.
The church, known as “Mother Emanuel,” was built in 1891, making it the oldest AME church in the South. It’s home to the oldest black congregation south of Baltimore.
“Right now we don’t know if anyone was targeted other than the church itself,” Mullen said.
The Rev. Pinckney was a tall man with a booming voice that commanded attention but a gentle demeanor, Riley, the Charleston mayor, said.
“If you wanted to make a movie of a distinguished pastor, you would have cast him,” Riley said.
He called the shooting an “unspeakable, heartbreaking tragedy.”
“It’s a prayer service and a bible service, and they’re speaking about the Holy Scriptures and praying, and then someone sitting there [is] contemplating the act of murder,” he said. “I personally believe there are far too many guns out there. And access to guns is far too easy. Our society has not been able to deal with that yet.”
The hours immediately following the shooting were “chaotic,” the police chief said, as police dogs tried to track the suspect and helicopters with spotlights whirred over downtown. A bomb threat near the church resulted in further confusion. Police said later they weren’t sure if the threat was connected to the shooting.
At one point, police detained a young man dressed like the suspect. Authorities declined to explain the arrest to reporters, but on Facebook, a young photographer later identified himself as the detained man. He said he was treated respectfully and questioned before police let him go.
Police cordoned off several blocks of Charleston’s historic district, including the Courtyard Marriott where the Orlando City pro soccer team spent the night after defeating the Charleston Battery in a U.S. Open Cup match. People were asked to stay indoors.
National political reporters in town to cover campaign events descended on the crime scene. Republican Jeb Bush canceled a town hall-style meeting planned for Thursday morning at the Charleston Maritime Center, about half a mile from the church.
“Governor Bush’s thoughts and prayers are with the individuals and families affected by this tragedy,” spokeswoman Allie Brandenburger said in a statement. Thursday’s news conference was held where Bush’s event would have taken place, and some of his local staff showed up to offer the city the second-floor space the campaign had leased.
Democrat Hillary Clinton had held an event earlier Wednesday in nearby North Charleston, site of a deadly police shooting in April.
“Heartbreaking news from Charleston — my thoughts and prayers are with you all,” Clinton said on Twitter early Thursday.
Members of the greater Charleston area’s African-American religious community gathered near the church in a show of solidarity. A prayer circle gathered shortly after midnight about three blocks from the site of the shooting, where a despairing pastor looked up angrily at the dark skies.
“Where do we go from here?” asked the Rev. Thomas Ravenell of Empowerment Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, who led the prayer. “How do I look at heaven when hell is always on my back?”