|Injured: Nine people were killed Wednesday night in a shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina|
A gunman opened fire at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina Wednesday night, killing nine people, and reports say a bomb threat was called in just hours later. Police responded to the shooting around 9pm at the 150-year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in the city's downtown and while there is no information about the victims, the Charleston police chief Gregory Mullen confirmed in a news conference that there were nine fatalities.
'This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience… It is senseless, unfathomable…' Mullen said. 'We are going to do everything in our power to find this individual, to lock him up, to make sure he does not hurt anyone else…'He said he believes the shooting was a hate crime.
A huge manhunt ensued with officers wearing bullet-proof vests and carrying guns. The gunman was still at large at 1am.
Media reports said Rev. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of the church and South Carolina state senator is among the dead, but police said they will not confirm the identities of any victims yet.
Eight of the victims died at the scene, and one later in a hospital. At least one injured person is being treated in a hospital. Just hours after the shooting, as a heavy police presence remained in the area, a bomb threat was called in to the scene, NBC 12 reports. Police immediately began pushing media and bystanders across the street. Mullen said the threat has been rescinded. An official told CNN that there are multiple fatalities and, a source said, multiple unidentified bodies inside the church. The suspect is described as a clean-shaven, 21-year-old white male and is believed to be wearing a gray, hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, and Timberland boots. Police were seen soon after taking a man matching the description into custody. However, the man was released and the Charleston Police Department tweeted that the gunman is still at large.
Local pastor Thomas Dixon told CNN around 11.30pm that the scene was 'very bad.' 'Apparently the person just entered the church and opened fire. That part has not been fully articulated on what happened yet ... they are still looking for the suspect,' he said.
|Threat: Just hours after the shooting, as a heavy police presence remained in the area, a bomb threat was called in at the scene|
Dixon also told NBC News that a bible study session is likely to have been going on at the time of the shooting. He said the church holds the sessions every Wednesday. A heavy police presence remained outside the church and a helicopter was assisting law enforcement on the scene in the hours following the shooting, FOX reports. At least six ambulances were seen in the area of the shooting.
According to the church's website, Emanuel AME Church -- often referred to as 'Mother Emanuel' -- is the oldest AME church in the south and has one of the largest black congregations south of Baltimore, Maryland. The church played an important role in the state's history, including the slavery era and the Civil Rights movement. Police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to call 911 dispatchers.
Jeb Bush, 2016 presidential candidate, cancelled a planned trip to South Carolina and the state legislature has post-poned a sitting planned for Thursday, The Guardian reports.
|Custody: Police were seen soon after taking a man matching the description into custody but the man was released soon after and the Charleston Police Department tweeted that the gunman is still at large|
- Daily Mail