The Washington Post
National ⋅ Live Blog

Live updates: Nine killed in shooting at church in Charleston

June 18, 2015

A group prayer across the street from the church following the shooting on Wednesday night. (David Goldman/AP)

A gunman opened fire and killed nine people during a prayer service on Wednesday at a historic African American church in downtown Charleston. Police said he was apprehended Thursday morning in North Carolina following an extensive manhunt in the region.

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

Charleston will host a prayer vigil on Friday evening at the College of Charleston, city officials announced this afternoon.

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

For some, the shooting evoked memories of the 1963 Birmingham bombing, in which Ku Klux Klan members planted dynamite on the steps of the 16th Sreet Baptist Church, killing four African American girls.

“The appalling events at the Emanuel Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston sent shudders through those who spent decades working to hold the Birmingham church bombers accountable,” Doug Jones, the former U.S. attorney who prosecuted Klan members who carried out the bombing, said in a statement Thursday. “For such a heinous act to be perpetrated in a house of God more than a half a century after the 16th Street tragedy is a reminder to us all that we must be ever vigilant and work as one community to call out and eliminate racial hatred. “

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·

Black church leaders far from South Carolina responded to Wednesday’s fatal shooting in Charleston with grief, prayer and calls of action. From Acts of Faith:

From church leaders to political leaders, the mass shootings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church pricked the hearts of many in one of oldest and most prominent church denominations in the country.

“The AME church has a real strong connective bond across the country,” said Dakarai Aaron, a member of the Board of Stewards at Metropolitan AME church in Washington DC. “When one of us hurts all of us hurt.”

Read more here.

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·

Hands are raised during a prayer vigil held at Charleston’s Morris Brown AME Church for the victims of Wednesday’s shooting. (Grace Beahm/The Post And Courier via AP)

Nine victims were gunned down Wednesday evening at Emanuel AME. Here are their stories:

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45: “All her life, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton pressed toward a goal.”

DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49: “DePayne Middleton Doctor had a powerful voice, an alto belt that could fill a church and bring out calls of praise from her fellow parishioners when she soloed in the choir.”

Cynthia Hurd, 54: “Cynthia Hurd dedicated her life to public service.”

Susie Jackson, 87: “It’s just hard to process that my grandmother had to leave Earth this way.”

Ethel Lance, 70: “Ethel Lance was practically always at her church, members said.”

Clementa C. Pinckney, 41: “Clementa C. Pinckney was busy Wednesday, not unusual for a man who was both a respected reverend and state senator in his native South Carolina.”

Tywanza Sanders, 26: “Tywanza Sanders was a year out of college when he was killed in Wednesday’s shooting, remembered by his alma mater as a quiet, warm and committed student.”

Daniel Simmons, 74: “Daniel Simmons was a pastor retired from another church in Charleston who worshipped every Sunday at Emanuel AME and visited on Wednesdays for Bible studies.”

Myra Thompson, 59: “Myra Thompson, 59, was was the wife of Reverend Anthony Thompson, a vicar at Holy Trinity REC in Charleston.”

Read more here: Remembering the Charleston church shooting victims.

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

SHELBY, N.C. — Debbie Dills says she was going to work on Thursday morning when she pulled up next to a car and saw something that caught her eye.

His hair caught her eye, she said later, but she continued driving and pulled off of Interstate 74 to continue on to her job as a florist at Frady’s Florist in Kings Mountain. But she decided she had to do something.

That hair, and that car, had been all over the news in the hours before Dills got into her car. Police had released photos of Dylann Roof and said he had opened fire inside a Charleston, S.C., church, gunning down nine parishioners gathered in the building.

“Those people were doing what I had just done,” Dills said in an interview Thursday. She was at her church, the West Cramerton Baptist Church in Gastonia, on Wednesday night. “They were studying his word, that is what they were there to do, and they lost their lives doing that.”

(Ken Otterbourg for The Washington Post)

(Ken Otterbourg for The Washington Post)

Dills called her boss Todd Frady, and got back on the road, driving about 10 miles down I-74 before catching up to him. She and Frady eventually got onto a three-way phone call with the Shelby Police Department, she said, and she got close enough to the car to get the tag number.

A short time later, Dills said, the police told her they had the situation under control, and she turned around to go to work.

Before Dills got back to work, though, Frady called her to tell her the news: Police had arrested Roof in Shelby.

The Shelby Police Department did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Thursday. But when Gregory Mullen, the Charleston police chief, announced the arrest on Thursday morning, he pointed to one tip in particular, saying that Roof was captured after a citizen saw something suspicious and called the police.

— Ken Otterbourg

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·

Weeks before being gunned down at Emmanuel AME Church, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney took to the South Carolina Senate floor to address racism and violence. His remarks, which addressed the police shooting of Walter Scott, were made in support of equipping police officers with body cameras, our colleague Max Ehrenfreund writes:

“Today the nation looks at South Carolina and is looking at us to see if we will rise to be the body and to be the state that we really say that we are,” Pinckney said, citing “a real heartache and a yearning for justice, for people not just in the African American community, but for all people — and not just in the Charleston area or even in South Carolina, but across our country.”

Pinckney went on to suggest that his faith requires forgiveness, even of those who kill.

“The Lord teaches us to love all, and we pray that over time, justice will be done,” he said.

Read more at Wonkblog here.

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·

The South Carolina and American flags fly at half mast as the Confederate flag unfurls below at the Confederate Monument Thursday in Columbia, South Carolina. (Sean Rayford/Getty)

The United States and South Carolina flags atop the statehouse in Columbia have been lowered Thursday after the shooting at Emanuel AME. But a Confederate flag on the statehouse grounds remains raised at full mast, the Post and Courier reported.

Officials told the Post and Courier that the state legislature controls when it comes down. From the paper:

State law reads, in part, the state “shall ensure that the flags authorized above shall be placed at all times as directed in this section and shall replace the flags at appropriate intervals as may be necessary due to wear.”

The protection was added by supporters of the flag to keep it on display as an officially recognized memorial to South Carolinians who fought in the Civil War. Opponents say it defends a system that supported slavery and represents hate groups.

In a show of respect, a brief recognition ceremony was held in the Senate chamber Thursday. The U.S. and South Carolina flags were lowered from the dome. The square Confederate banner that’s in front of the building and on display at the Confederate monument was left alone.

As Will Whitson, South Carolina state reporter for NBC affiliate WIS-TV explained, removing the flag requires a legislative vote and “it is not an instantaneous process.”

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

  • Sarah Larimer
  • ·

Shooting suspect Dylann Roof on Thursday waived extradition and was expected to return to Charleston, the Cleveland County Clerk’s Office confirmed.

Roof was arrested Thursday in Shelby, N.C., which is in Cleveland County. Charleston, S.C., is about four hours away.

  • Sarah Larimer
  • ·

Over on Early Lead, Clinton Yates takes a look at the Charleston RiverDogs’ decision to play tonight’s scheduled minor league baseball game, against the West Virginia Power.

Writes Yates:

Nearly three years ago, I was sitting in Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park watching the Charleston RiverDogs play baseball. I was on a tour to visit minor league parks and the second largest city in South Carolina was the furthest point south. I did all the tourist things, visiting the historic district, where the ugly details of the state’s slave past is conveniently white-washed with phrases that make everyone feel like it was all okay.

One tour guide called an old trading block downtown “the Internet of its era” and others would routinely throw around the phrase “most prosperous” or “most profitable” colony, as if there was a reason that farmers were making money beyond, you know, atrocious human rights activities that allowed them to enrich themselves on the backs of others. I visited seven cities that summer all across the American South.

Charleston was the only place I felt physically uncomfortable just walking around, because the visual vocabulary of the place was so painfully unchanged from one of the most awful chapters of American history.

Read the full piece here.

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·
A group of firefighters bow their heads in prayer outside the site of the Sofa Super Store in Charleston, South Carolina, June 19, 2007. Nine firefighters were killed when the roof of the store and a warehouse collapsed last night as they worked to rescue a trapped employee, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said. Photographer: Mahmood Fazal/Bloomberg News

A group of firefighters bow their heads in prayer outside the site of the Sofa Super Store in Charleston, South Carolina, June 19, 2007. (Mahmood Fazal/Bloomberg News)

Today marks a sad anniversary in the city of Charleston: on June 18, 2007, nine firefighters died in a blaze at the Sofa Super Store. Commemoration events had been planned for Thursday night, the Post and Courier reported.

A firefighter walks in front of the burning Sofa Super Store in Charleston, S.C., Monday, June 18, 2007. Nine firefighters died fighting the fire which destroyed the store and a warehouse.  (AP Photo/The Post And Courier, Tyrone Walker) ** NO SALES; MAGS OUT**

A firefighter walks in front of the burning Sofa Super Store in Charleston, S.C., Monday, June 18, 2007. (Tyrone Walker/The Post And Courier via AP)

A firefighter takes a moment after helping to put out the fire that claimed the lives of nine Charleston area firefighters at the Sofa Super Store in Charleston, S.C., Tuesday, June 19, 2007. The fire began Monday evening. (AP Photo/Alice Keeney)

A firefighter takes a moment after helping to put out the fire that claimed the lives of nine Charleston area firefighters at the Sofa Super Store in Charleston, S.C., Tuesday, June 19, 2007. (Alice Keeney/AP)

  • Mark Berman
  • ·
  • Mark Berman
  • ·

Three years ago, before the gunfire erupted at a Sunday morning service, members of the close-knit Sikh community in suburban Milwaukee seldom locked the temple doors.

Now, those who arrive this evening to pray for the victims in Charleston, S.C. must ring a buzzer for a full-time security guard to let them inside, Danielle Paquette reports. This is life for the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin after a gunman killed five men and one woman in 2012, the last major bloodshed at a place of worship in the United States before the deadly church shooting in Charleston, S.C.

“It used to be in the Sikh religion, all doors stayed open,” Balhair S. Dulai, vice president of the temple. “But what happened here, and what happened in South Carolina — these things could happen anywhere. No one is immune.”

Head to Post Nation for more.

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·

Former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder sent his first tweet from his personal account Thursday, and it was in response to the shooting at Emanuel AME:

Holder’s former spokesman, Matthew Miller, confirmed that the account does indeed belong to Holder.

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

Rae H. Wooten, the Charleston County coroner, confirmed the names of the nine victims killed on the shooting spree inside the Charleston church.

Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Wooten recited the nine names, though she did not immediately provide spellings or other personal details.

  • Cynthia Hurd, 54, a library branch manager
  • Susie Jackson, 87
  • Ethel Lance, 70
  • The Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
  • The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, the church’s pastor and a state senator
  • Tywanza Sanders, 26
  • The Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74, who died at the hospital after the shooting
  • The Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45
  • Myra Thompson, 59

(This list has been updated.)

  • Terri Rupar
  • ·

In April, Dylann Roof was arrested on charges of trespassing at the Columbiana Mall in Columbia, S.C. That came two months after he was banned from the mall after a police officer said he found Roof in possession of a narcotic there.

Here are the police reports from those two incidents.

In this report from February, police in Columbia, S.C., say that Roof was acting suspicious at a mall north…

Police report on trespassing charges against Charleston shooting suspect Dylann Roof

  • Sarah Larimer
  • ·

One of the victims of the Charleston church shooting was a recent college graduate, the university where he studied confirmed Thursday.

Tywanza Sanders, a 2014 graduate of the Division of Business Administration at Allen University, was among those killed in the shooting, the institution said in a news release.

“He was a quiet, well known student who was committed to his education,” the statement read. “He presented a warm and helpful spirit as he interacted with his colleagues. Mr. Sanders was participating in the Bible Study session at Mother Emanuel church at the time of the shooting.”

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·


From Acts of Faith’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey comes five key points to know about violence at houses of worship in the United States:

  • This incident ties for the largest mass murder at a house of worship in the United States.
  • There is an uptick in violence at houses of worship. In 2014, there were 176 deaths at a religious institution.
  • There have been 13 mass murders at a house of worship since the Birmingham, Ala., bombing in 1963.
  • About 60 percent of violence at religious institutions include guns.
  • The last mass killing at a house of worship was at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee in 2012.

Bailey writes:

The Charleston shooting ties for the most people killed during a mass murder at a faith-based institution in recent memory, according to Carl Chinn, who runs what is considered to be the most extensive database on church violence. The FBI defines mass murder as four or more killed in a single act, typically at one location.

“It’s certainly one of, if not the most, vicious attacks I’ve seen at a faith-based organization,” said Chinn, who described the shooting as the 13th mass murder at a faith-based organization in the country.

Read more at Acts of Faith here.

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) wipes his eye as members of Congress congregate for a prayer circle honoring the South Carolina shooting victims outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Lawmakers and aides assembled outside of the U.S. Capitol steps Thursday morning for a prayer circle led by Senate Chaplain Barry Black.

“A church should be one of the safest places on the planet. And people assembled to lift their heads in prayer to hear the word of God. And they were brutally murdered in the house of God,” Black said. “Our hearts ache for the families of the victims. Our hearts ache for the citizens of Charleston, South Carolina. Our hearts ache for our nation, and we pray and ask that God would somehow use us to end the insanity of violence that we see.”

House and Senate members and staff gather in a prayer circle in front of the U.S. Capitol. (Mark Wilson/Getty)

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

Vice President Biden, who had seen one of the victims of the Charleston shooting less than a year ago, called it an “act of pure evil and hatred.”

“Hate has once again been let loose in an American community,” Biden and his wife, Jill, said in a statement Thursday. “And the senseless actions of a coward have once again cut short so many lives with so much promise.”

Biden said that they last saw the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator, last year at a prayer breakfast in Columbia, S.C.

“He was a good man, a man of faith, a man of service who carried forward Mother Emanuel’s legacy as a sacred place promoting freedom, equality, and justice for all,” Biden said. “We pray for him and his sister as we do for the seven other innocent souls who entered that storied church for their weekly Bible study seeking nothing more than humble guidance for the full lives ahead of them.”

Load More
No More Posts