After launching a manhunt for “a white male in a gray sweatshirt/hoodie and jeans,” authorities have captured 21-year-old suspect Dylann Storm Roof in connection with the murder of 9 individuals inside of a historic South Carolina church.
It’s a crime that feels all too familiar for many, particularly to those that haven’t forgotten the Birmingham church bombing that claimed the lives of 4 black girls in 1963. The tragic shooting occurred inside of Charleston’s famed Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the largest of it’s kind in the nation. Founded during a time when all-black services were banned, Emanuel AME has long served as a sanctuary against persecution.
After sitting through a prayer program for nearly an hour, Roof allegedly declared “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go,” before opening fire on the 12 individuals inside; killing 3 men and 4 women. Among the victims is Senator Clementa Pinckney who also served as the Pastor. Known for being the youngest African-American ever elected to the South Carolina State Senate, after the death of Walter Scott he fought for the use of body cams on police officers within the state.
According to Robert Greene, “It’s not just a church. It’s also a symbol … of black freedom. That’s why so many folks are so upset tonight, because it’s a church that represents so much about the rich history and tradition of African Americans in Charleston.”
With the investigation being treated as a hate crime, Roof will now be returned to South Carolina. Though authorities are still releasing the names of victims, among survivors is a 5-year-old girl that played dead and another who claims she was allowed to live so that she could “tell others what happened.” Said Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen, “This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience. I do believe this was a hate crime.”