What We Know So Far About the Charleston Church Massacre

Editor’s Note: This post will be updated as new information becomes available.

Last night, nine people were slaughtered inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic African-American church, in South Carolina. The Justice Department announced that the mass shooting is being investigated as a hate crime. The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a Black state senator, was among the victims of the shooting.

A survivor says Rev. Pinckney pleaded with the shooter to stop, but he replied: “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country.”

Dylann Storm Roof, 21, was identified as the shooter by the F.B.I. and was apprehended Thursday, according to U.S. Attorney General Loretta LynchCarson Cowles, 56, Roof’s uncle, says he was given the .45 caliber pistol as a birthday present from his father. He also positively identified his nephew from surveillance footage: “The more I look at him, the more I’m convinced, that’s him,” Cowles told Reuters.

Roof confessed to the shooting on Friday, saying he nearly didn’t kill anyone because the people were “so nice” but decided to “go through with his mission.” He’s been charged with nine counts of murder.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is best-known for its involvement in the civil rights movement. The church’s activism dates back to its inception. The church was burned in the early 1800s after unsuccessfully planning a slave revolt, but the church continued to worship “underground” until it was officially rebuilt in the 1860s.

“Acts like this one have no place in our country,” Lynch told reporters. “They have no place in a civilized society.”

Joey Meek, a childhood friend of Roof’s, first alerted the F.B.I. of his identity when she recognized his shirt from surveillance footage.

State Rep. Wendell Gilliard, whose district includes the church, called the attack a “warning” that society was facing a serious issue:

“We need action. There’s a race problem in our country. There’s a gun problem in our country. We need to act on them quickly.”

Black churches in the South have been the sites of hate crimes throughout history. The Daily Beast describes this attack as among the most “horrific” in the history of civil rights, noting the KKK bombing that wounded the country over 50 years ago in Alabama.

Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. described the killer as a man with a “deranged mind” who was “filled with hate.” He added, “We are going to put our arms around that church and that church family.”

President Obama delivered remarks on the shooting Thursday morning, saying:

“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency [...] The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked [...] The good news is I am confident that the outpouring of unity and strength and fellowship and love across Charleston today, from all races, from all faiths, from all places of worship, indicates the degree to which those old vestiges of hatred can be overcome.”

The full address is available below, and the transcript can be accessed here.

Donations to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Church can be made here.


Photo Credit: Digital Journal / Creative Commons license


John J
John J6 months ago

thanks for sharing

John J
John J6 months ago

thanks for sharing

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

monica shepherd
monica s3 years ago

Having read most of the comments, it seems to be some kind of argument between people who think they are right and others are wrong. Is that not why Charleston happened?

Caroline Asgard
Caroline Asgard3 years ago


Shirley Layfield
Shirley Layfield3 years ago

This is so sad, my heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones

Renee M.
Renee M3 years ago

It is so sad that there is so much hatred out there...

Marie W.
Marie W3 years ago

Violence is the issue. Whether fueled by racism, bigotry, misogyny, etc. Why is there so much animal abuse; why is rape so rampant; child abuse; on and on?
Any time violence is seen as a solution to psychopaths' problems- they more than likely will use it.

pam w.
pam w3 years ago

I'm SO VERY WEARY of Christians whining about being ''persecuted."

Tell us the truth....is it because of that old ''blessed are ye who are persecuted in my name" business? Do you, like another group of insufferable people we know, actually LONG for martyrdom, so you'll be ''blessed?"

Teresa W.
Teresa W3 years ago

thank you