At least nine persons were killed in the wee hours on Thursday (Wednesday evening local US time) as an unidentified gunman opened fire inside a historic black church in Charleston in the US state of South Carolina. According to US local authorities, eight persons were killed inside the church, while another person was declared dead at a city hospital.
The police is still looking out for the suspect. They are also probing at the possible angle of a hate crime. “I do believe it was a hate crime,” city police Chief Gregory Mullen claimed.
“We’re still gathering information so it’s not the time yet for details,” Charleston Mayor Joe Riley told the press.
“I will say that this is an unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy in this most historic church, an evil and hateful person took the lives of citizens who had come to worship and pray together,” the Mayor said in an official statement to the press and the public.
The shooting happened at around 21:00 local time on Wednesday (05:30 IST Thursday) at the church on 110 Calhoun Street when a prayer meeting was going on.
Condoling the shocking incident, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said her family was praying for the victims and families touched by the senseless tragedy. The shooting is said to be one of the worst mass shootout in the history of the State.
“While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another,” Governor Haley said in her statement.
“Please join us in lifting up the victims and their families with our love and prayers,” she urged.
The police have now launched a massive investigation searching for a suspect who is assumed to be a clean-shaven slender white male in his 20s.
The 19th Century Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is one of the oldest in the US. One of the founders of the Church was Denmark Vesey, a leader of a failed slave revolt in 1822.
(With inputs from PTI/agencies)