AFRICANGLOBE – A 21-year-old white terrorist with a criminal record killed nine people at a Bible-study meeting in a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in an attack U.S. officials are investigating as a hate crime.
Law enforcement officials on Thursday caught alleged gunman Dylann Roof, local television reported. The rampage came in a year that has seen months of racially charged protests across the United States over police and vigilante murders of Black men.
A man who identified himself as Roof’s uncle said he had recently been give a .45-caliber handgun as a birthday present by his father and that the 21-year-old had allegedly seemed adrift.
“The more I look at him, the more I’m convinced, that’s him,” Carson Cowles, 56, told reporters in a phone interview, adding that law enforcement agents were present at Roof’s home. “If it is him, and when they catch him, he’s got to pay for this.”
The victims, six females and three males, included Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was the church’s pastor and a Democratic member of the state Senate, according to colleagues.
The U.S. Department of Justice opened a hate crime investigation into the shooting. [ID: nL1N0Z40RV]
Roof sat with churchgoers inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for about an hour on Wednesday before opening fire, Police Chief Gregory Mullen said.
He reloaded five times even as victims pleaded with him to stop, a relative of Pinckney’s said. Sylvia Johnson, a cousin, told MSNBC that a survivor told her the gunman reloaded five times during the attack. Pinckney tried to talk him out of it, she said.
“He just said, ‘I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country,” Johnson said.
Demonstrations have rocked New York, Baltimore, Ferguson, Missouri and other cities following police killings of unarmed Black men including Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and Michael Brown.
A white police officer was charged with murder after he shot an unarmed Black man in April in neighboring North Charleston.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which researches U.S. hate groups, said the attack illustrates the dangers that home-grown WHITE extremists pose.
“Since 9/11, our country has been fixated on the threat of Jihadi terrorism. But the horrific tragedy at the Emmanuel AME reminds us that the threat of homegrown (WHITE) domestic terrorism is very real,” the group said in a statement.
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