Police Catch Suspected Gunman in Church Shooting
The nation is reeling upon waking up to the news that a gunman opened fire at a church prayer meeting Wednesday evening in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people, including a state senator.
Police have arrested suspected gunman Dylann Storm Roof. They say Roof was cooperative after state and national security people tracked him down Thursday after a citizen reported suspicious activity.
Church members say the shooter sat down and attended part of the service before opening fire.
"You tell people to go to work, do right, go to church. These people were in church. They were in church!" an outraged Mayor Joseph Riley said.
Are churches more vulnerable to these types of attacks? CBN Chief of Security Chris Mitchell, who is also a pastor, talks about the events surrounding the shooting in Charleston, following this report.
State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, 41, the pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Church, was one of those killed.
Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said Thursday the others have been identified as Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Sharonda Singleton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; and DePayne Doctor, 49.
Sanders had recently graduated from Allen University. Hurd worked for Charleston County's library system for 31 years. Doctor was an enrollment counselor at Southern Wesleyan University's Charleston Campus, according to a friend.
Officials refused to go into detail about possible motives for the shooting, but many are calling it a hate crime.
"The only reason someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is because of hate -- the only reason. It is the most dastardly act that one can possibly imagine," Mayor Riley said.
Built in 1891, Emanuel AME is one of the oldest black churches in the South. Its pastor, who is well-known for his civil rights activism, is believed to be among the dead.
Meanwhile, powerful moments are unfolding in the wake of the shooting, with members of the community gathering in prayer circles down the street from the crime scene.
"We want the entire community to pray for safety for our people and that we would hope that this person who committed this heinous crime which is a hate crime, be brought to justice," Dr. Norvel Goff, a church elder, said.
"We stand in solidarity," he continued. "But we also solicit your prayers for the family members who have lost loved ones here tonight."
Another elder reported that more than 50 pastors from all across the state have gathered in downtown Charleston to help comfort those affected by the tragedy.
**The massacre in South Carolina is raising questions about the importance of church security. CBN News' George Thomas spoke with a former secret service agent and president of Lionsheart International Service Group about why he says more churches are becoming targets.
What does church security look like? CBN News visited Brown Missionary Baptist Church near Memphis, Tennessee. Click here to see how their top-notch security team keeps members safe.