In yet another senseless act of racial violence, several people were killed by a lone gunman at a church in Charleston, South Carolina last night (June 17).
The suspect sat with the group during a Bible Study service for about an hour, according to reports, before he opened fire inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church at approximately 9 pm. Police later found eight people dead, and two others were taken to the hospital, where one died soon after.
The shooter was identified as Dylann Roof, 21, and he was arrested during a traffic stop in Shelby, North Carolina early this morning (June 18).
President Obama made a statement at the White House earlier today, where he publicly mourned the nine victims, consisting of six women and three men
“To say our thoughts and prayers are with them doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache, sadness and anger we feel. There is something particularly heartbreaking about this happening in a place where we seek solace and peace.
I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. This type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this frequency. It’s in our power to do something about it."
“The only reason someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is out of hate. It is the most dastardly act that one could possibly imagine,” Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said during a news conference.
"The senselessly slain parishioners were in a church for Wednesday night Bible study. There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of scripture,” Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO of the NAACP, as well as an African Methodist Episcopal minister himself, added in his own statement today.
According to reports, one of Roof’s Facebook profile pictures (seen above) shows him wearing a jacket with patches that represent apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, a white-dominated state that is unrecognized, but is a known symbol of white supremacy. He also had a Confederate flag attached to his car.
His uncle told police that Roof received a gun from his father as a birthday present earlier this year.
Charleston residents held a vigil today for the victims, and moments of silence have been enacted throughout the day across the nation in respect.
A joint hate crime investigation has been opened by the U.S. Department of Justice, Attorney’s Office, and the FBI.
Emanuel’s pastor, Senator Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Cynthia Hurd, and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton are just four of the victims named in this tragedy, and they now join the names of the countless African Americans who have been murdered in this country over the past several years—events that have become all too common.
We as a society have a long way to go, even with the tiny steps of progress we’re making on a day-to-day basis. Mothers, fathers, and children are being taken from this world by people who should not wield that power, and there is no other reason except for the institutionalized racism that still exists and the sheer, damaging hatred that still reigns in some individuals.
I only hope that the awareness about this issue and the public discussions continue to escalate so that everyone—no matter what your race, ethnicity or sexual orientation—can one day truly live in freedom and safety.
The entire staff at PopWrapped sends our condolences to the families affected by this horrific tragedy. We stand with you, Charleston.