Nine killed in shooting at US churchtext_fields
South Carolina: Nine people were killed late Wednesday at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina in the United States after a white gunman walked in during a prayer meeting and began shooting.
The Fox News quoted Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen telling a press conference early Thursday that the gunman, described as a clean-shaven man in his early 20s, was still at large and "extremely dangerous."
"This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience," Mullen said. "It is senseless and unfathomable in today's society that someone would walk into a church during a prayer meeting and take their lives."
"The only reason that someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is out of hate," said Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley. "It is the most dastardly act that one could possibly imagine, and we will bring that person to justice ... This is one hateful person."
Mullen said that the shooting would be investigated as a hate crime, but would not elaborate further. He also announced that a reward for information leading to the shooter's capture would be offered Thursday.
As Mullen and Riley updated the news media, a group of pastors huddled together praying in a circle across the street.
Earlier, police moved members of the news media back away from the site due to what they called an "imminent" threat. They did not release any details.
Authorities said the shooting took place at approximately 9 p.m. local time. Police would not immediately confirm the identities of the victims. Mullen said there were survivors, but did not say how many, or how many were inside the church at the time of the shooting.
The church is a historic African-American church that traces its roots to 1816, when several churches split from Charleston's Methodist Episcopal church. One of its founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to organize a slave revolt in 1822. He was caught, and white landowners had his church burned in revenge. Parishioners worshipped underground until after the Civil War.