As Charleston reels in the aftermath of Wednesday night’s shooting at a historic black church that killed six women and three men – portraits of the victims, ranging in age from 26 to 87 years old, are beginning to emerge.
From a library manager, to the mother of a university baseball player, to a state senator, here’s what we know about those who lost their lives in the tragedy. All nine victims were identified on Thursday afternoon by Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten.
Clementa C. Pinckney, 41: The longtime state legislator and pastor of Emanuel African Methodist church (where the shooting took place) was the first victim to be identified. In fact, 21-year-old suspected gunman Dylann Storm Roof reportedly entered the church before attack, asked parishioners to identify the pastor, and sat by Pinckney during a Bible study before he allegedly opened fire.
Pinckney began his political career when he was just 23 years old after he was elected to the state’s House of Representatives in 1996. The Democrat has been serving as a state senator since 2000. In April, he helped lead a prayer vigil for Walter Scott, a black South Carolina man who was killed by a police officer as he tried to run away. Afterward, he campaigned for police to wear body cameras.
His friend, state Rep. Peter McCoy, described Pinckney as “a man of absolute moral fiber” to msnbc’s Andrea Mitchell. The Republican, who said the pastor was a mentor to him as a young legislator, added, “He was an absolute icon and are just devastated by the loss.” Pinckney is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and two daughters Eliana and Malana, according to the church’s website.
Tywanza Sanders, 26: Allen University in Columbia confirmed Sanders, one of the school’s alumni, was participating in Wednesday night’s Bible study session when he was killed in the shooting. He graduated just last year with a degree in business administration. University President Lady June Cole described Sanders as a “quiet, well known student who was committed to his education. He presented a warm and helpful spirit as he interacted with his colleagues.”
According to what appears to be his Facebook page, Sanders was originally from Charleston but had been living in Columbia, S.C.. In recent months, he posted several photos related to police brutality against African-Americans, including a snapshot of The Post and Courier’s April 8 front page with the news that Charleston officer Michael Slager had been charged with murder for the shooting death of Scott.
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45: The mother, track coach and reverend at Emanuel African Methodist church, was also killed in the shooting. Her son, Chris, is a sophomore and baseball player at Charleston Southern University. CSU’s head coach Stuart Lake said in a statement that “Chris’s mother was just that parent that as a coach you are proud to have as part of your program. What she brought to our team is immeasurable.
Goose Creek High School, where Coleman-Singleton coached girls track, paid tribute to her on the school’s Facebook page. Accompanied with a picture of Coleman-Singleton holding a yellow rose, a post reads “We love you, Coach Singleton. Gator Nation is where it is today because of your leadership. You have our thoughts and prayers.”
Cynthia Hurd, 54: Charleston County Public Library released a statement saying it was devastated by the “senseless shootings” on Wednesday night that killed one of its own, St. Andrews regional library manager Cynthia Hurd.
Hurd had been working with the Charleston County Public Library system for 31 years. “Cynthia was a tireless servant for the community who spent her life helping resident, making sure they had every opportunity for an education and personal growth,” the library said in a statement. “Her loss is incomprehensible, and we ask for prayer for her family, he co-workers, her church and this entire community as we come together to face this tragic loss.”
To honor Hurd and the rest of the victims, Charleston County Public Library is closing its 16 locations on Thursday.
Ethel Lance, 70: According to the Post and Courier, Lane had worked for three decades at the church.
Susie Jackson, 87: According to the Post and Courier, Jackson was Lance’s cousin and a long-time church member.
Depayne Middleton, 49: The Charleston County coroner identified Middleton as a reverend, who retired in 2005 as the director of a community development block program of Charleston County.
Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr, 74: The coroner said Simmons was the only individual who did not die at the church. He was transported to a nearby hospital after the shooting but died in the operating room.
Myra Thompson, 59: The Post and Courier identified her as a pastor of the church.