There’s heartbreaking news this morning out of South Carolina, where a mass shooting has left nine dead in at Charleston’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin reported from the scene:
A gunman shot to death nine church members who had gathered for Bible study and prayer Wednesday night at one of the nation’s oldest black churches. Among the dead was beloved pastor Clementa Pinckney, a longtime state senator who spent the earlier part of the day campaigning in the city with Hillary Clinton.
The suspected gunman has not been identified by name, but surveillance footage released to the media point to as a 5’9” white male, early- to mid-20s, with sandy blond hair. He remains at large.
Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen told reporters this morning that he believes this was a hate crime, adding, “This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience. It is senseless. It is unfathomable that somebody in today’s society would walk into a church, when people are having a prayer meeting, and take their lives.”
The full list of victims and their ages has not yet been released, though police said three males and six females were murdered.
Though NBC News has not yet confirmed this detail, the local Post and Courier reported this morning, “Mullen confirmed that the shooter was in the church for almost an hour attending the prayer meeting with the group before shooting.”