Authorities on Thursday said they had arrested the suspect in the Charleston, S.C. shooting inside a historically black church that killed nine people and is being investigated as a hate crime.
Police identified the suspect as Dylann Roof, 21, of Lexington, S.C., and said they had captured him after a massive manhunt from Wednesday night into Thursday morning. He was taken into custody at 10:49 a.m. during a traffic stop in Shelby, N.C., where he was “cooperative” with officers, officials said.
“We don’t let bad people like this get away with these dastardly deeds,” Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley said at a press conference just before noon announcing Roof’s arrest.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley broke down as she spoke at the press conference, describing the deep grief that had overwhelmed the state.
“We woke up today and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken,” Haley said, adding, “It is a very very sad day in South Carolina. But it is a day we will get through, it is a day we will remember and it is a day that will allow us to get stronger.”
Speaking at his own press conference Thursday afternoon, President Obama expressed his condolences to the victims’ families and said, “At some point we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of violence doesn’t happen in other advanced countries.”
He added, “Hatred across races and faiths poses a particular threat to our democracy.”
Earlier Thursday, Police Chief Greg Mullen said the suspect, who is white, was in a meeting for about an hour inside the Emanuel AME Church before he began shooting, killing six women and three men. The time stamps on images of the suspect show him entering the church at 8:17 p.m.; the shooting was reported at 9:05 p.m. Police believe he acted alone.
Eight of the victims were dead when police arrived on the scene, and the ninth was taken to a hospital and later died. Mullen said Thursday morning that there were three survivors who police have been communicating with. At a press conference Thursday afternoon, the county coroner said it was “obvious” that all the victims had died as a result of gunshot wounds.
She also identified all nine victims by name: Cynthia Hurd, Suzy Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. Depayne Middleton, Rev. Clementa Pinkney , Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Summons Sr., Myra Thompson and Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.
Pinckney, one of the victims, was the church’s pastor and a state senator. A black cloth was placed over his chair in the Senate in Charleston on Thursday.
“This tragedy we are describing right now is indescribable,” Mullen said in a press conference. “No one in this community will ever forget this night.”
The FBI was called in to help with finding Roof.
The official Twitter for the Berkeley County government posted photographs of Roof, as well as his potential license plate number, while the search was still underway:
Speaking Thursday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Department of Justice has opened a hate crime investigation into the shooting.
“Acts like this one have no place in our country and no place in a civilized society,” Lynch said.
Rev. John Paul Brown, a Charleston minister, urged the community not to retaliate for the attack. “At this point there is so much healing that is needed, he told WBTV. “As a faith community we would kill everything that we stand for [if we resorted to violence].”
This attack comes two months after the fatal shooting of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer in neighboring North Charleston, which ignited racial tensions in the state and around the country.