Police in the US say a 21-year-old white gunman suspected of killing nine people inside a historic African-American church in the US city of Charleston has been captured after an all-night manhunt.
Dylann Roof spent nearly an hour inside the church on Wednesday night before killing six women and three men, including the pastor, Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said on Thursday.
Now is the time for mourning and for healing, but let's be clear: 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
“I do believe that this is a hate crime,” Mullen told reporters.
Roof was detained during a traffic stop some three hours drive in North Carolina. He waived extradition from North Carolina on Thursday and was taken to a waiting police car wearing a bulletproof vest, with shackles on his feet and his hands cuffed behind his back.
Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallacher, reporting from Charleston, said that the suspect is being questioned by the police.
“He was found because there was such a national outcry to the story that everyone knew how he looked like. CCTV pictures from church are very clear. We knew which car he was driving.”
President Barack Obama said he and his wife, Michelle, knew 41-year-old Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the pastor who was killed along with eight others on Wednesday night.
Pinckney, a father of two, was also a Democrat State Senator. He had been an influential campaigner for civil rights and against police violence.
“To say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families and their community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel,” Obama said
Obama, appearing somber as well as frustrated, said he has had to make statements like the one he made on Thursday too many times.
“Now is the time for mourning and for healing, but let’s be clear: 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,” Obama said.
“It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.” Obama said.
Charleston Mayor Joseph P Riley Jr called it “pure, pure concentrated evil.”
Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said autopsies would be conducted over the next several days and did not have specific information on how many times the victims were shot or the locations of their injuries.
The other victims have been identified as Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; the Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; and DePayne Doctor, 49.
Earlier, Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis said the shooting occurred at the Emanuel AME Church around 01:00 GMT.
“I have to say that the mood here in Charleston is one of defiance. The church is known as the heart of the community. It was established by African-Americans who were fighting for freedom from slavery,” Al Jazeera’s Gallacher said.
“The community leaders say the man picked on the wrong church. They say they will recover from it and the whole community will put its arms around each together.”
In a Facebook profile apparently belonging to Roof, a portrait showed him wearing a jacket emblazoned with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and of the former Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, both formerly ruled by white minorities.
Roof had been to jail and court records show a pending felony drug case and a past misdemeanor trespassing charge, Associated Press reported.
This shooting “should be a warning to us all that we do have a problem in our society,” said state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, a Democrat whose district includes the church.
“There’s a race problem in our country. There’s a gun problem in our country. We need to act on them quickly.”
The attack came two months after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man, Walter Scott, by a white police officer in neighbouring North Charleston, which increased racial tensions. The officer awaits trial for murder, and the shooting prompted South Carolina to pass a law, co-sponsored by Pinckney, to equip police statewide with body cameras.
The website for the church said it has one of the largest and oldest African-American congregations in the region. It was built in 1891 and is considered a historically significant building, according to the National Park Service.