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  • Posted by: Kevin Martinez

Suspected Charleston Church Gunman Who Killed 9, Caught In North Carolina


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The hate-fueled white gunman wanted for executing nine black worshippers inside a historic South Carolina church was arrested Thursday morning after a massive manhunt, authorities said.

"A terrible human being who would go into a place of worship where people are praying and kill them is now in custody - where he will always remain," said Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley.

The killing spree came during a Wednesday night Bible study session, with a trailer park neighbor of the accused killer recalling that Roof warned one week earlier about going on a murderous rampage.

"He flat out told us he was going to do this stuff," said Christon Scriven, 22. "He's just off in the head ... Weird."

Scriven, who is black, said Roof initially plotted to target the College of Charleston and not the church.

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Police lead suspected shooter Dylann Roof, 21, into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina.

"You don't know when to take him seriously and when not to," said Scriven. "To be honest, I didn't react (to the news). I was like, 'Awww man, he did that s---.'"

Authorities said the arrest of the suspect came without incident about at 10:49 a.m. after a local citizen called police to report that she had spied Roof in his getaway car.

Roof, after about 25 minutes of questioning by police, surrendered quietly. Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen characterizing the killer as "cooperative" as he was taken into custody by local cops.

A woman on her way to work at a Shelby florist recognized Roof’s black Hyundai on Highway 74 and then called her boss — who in turn dialed the cops.

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Roof shot and killed nine people in the church and reloaded his gun five times, according to witnesses.

“I knew it was a black car ... I saw pictures of him with the bowl cut,” said a teary Debbie Dills to the Shelby Star newspaper. “Since it happened, I was praying for them and the church. I was in the right time at the right place that the Lord puts you.”

The eight victims were identified by the coroner: church Pastor Clementa Pinckney, 41; public library branch manager Cynthia Hurd, 54; girls high school track and field coach Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; recent college graduate Tywanza Sanders, 26; church member Myra Thompson, 59; church employee Ethel Lance, 70; college enrollment counselor DePayne Doctor, 49; and long-time parishioner Susie Jackson, 87.

South Carolina officials will move to bring the suspect back to their state for prosecution. Roof apparently drove the 245 miles to Shelby by himself after fleeing the gore-spattered church.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said his niece Emily was once in the same eighth-grade class as Roof — described by the GOP presidential hopeful as “one of these whacked out kids.”

Graham, after speaking with his sister Darline Nordone and his niece, told CNN that his relatives had nothing positive to say about Roof.

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The car Roof drove in to get away from the scene.

“He was quiet, strange, very anti-social and everyone thought he was on drugs,” said Graham. “It’s about a young man who is obviously twisted.”

President Obama, in his comments about the killings, invoked the Sept. 15, 1963, church bombing that left four little black girls dead at the hands of racists in Birmingham, Ala.

"The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history," the president declared.

"This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked, and we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals."

The president noted that he and First Lady Michelle Obama personally knew some parishioners at the church — along with its slain pastor.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said his niece Emily was once in the same eighth-grade class as Roof — described by the GOP presidential hopeful as “one of these whacked out kids.”

“He was quiet, strange, very anti-social and everyone thought he was on drugs,” said Graham. “It’s about a young man who is obviously twisted.

”President Obama, in his comments about the killings, invoked the Sept. 15, 1963, church bombing that left four little black girls dead at the hands of racists in Birmingham, Ala.

“The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history,” the president declared.

“This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked, and we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.”

The president noted that he and First Lady Michelle Obama personally knew some parishioners at the church — along with its slain pastor.

A Facebook photo showed the demented mass murder suspect glaring into the camera while wearing a black jacket decorated with an apartheid-era South African flag.

Federal officials wasted no time in declaring the multiple murders a hate crime, and a search was launched for the slender suspect in a grey sweatshirt.

“This is a very dangerous individual,” said Mullen. “We want to ... arrest him before he hurts anyone else.”

Police released a photo of the gunman entering through the church’s front door before the slaughter in which he reloaded five times as his pious victims pleaded for their lives, according to a family member of one victim.

Roof, who fled the scene in a black Hyundai, allowed one churchgoer to live only so she could recount the carnage inside the venerable house of worship with two centuries of history.

“The shooter said, ‘I'm not going to shoot you because I want you to tell everyone what happened,’” Charleston NAACP chapter President Dot Scott told the Post and Courier newspaper.

The church's pastor, State Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney, was among the victims, his family said.

The slain preacher and politician, 41, was married with two children, and began his religious career at age 13. The Democrat was elected to the state house at age 23, making him the youngest member of the House at the time.

Roof spent an hour at the prayer meeting before making his murderous intentions known, authorities said. Six women and three men were dead when the shooting finally stopped.

“You have to go,” witnesses quoted Roof as telling his helpless targets.

“He just said, 'I have to do it,’” said Sylvia Johnson, Pinckney's cousin, after speaking to witnesses.

“He said, 'You rape our women, and you're taking over our country,'" she recounted to MSNBC.

Roof's presence at the church meeting did not set off any red flags because the congregation is used to hosting tourists, who visit the church for its history.

“No one in this community will ever forget this night," Mullen said at a Thursday morning press conference. "This is a situation that is unacceptable in any society, especially in our society and our city."

Roof had a pair of arrests this year: a March 2 bust for possession of a controlled substance and an April 26 arrest for trespassing.

He lived in Lexington, S.C., about a two-hour ride from the church.

While local police focused their overnight search to the area around the church, other law enforcement agencies as far away as New York were keeping a lookout for the suspect.

NYC LEADERS APPALLED BY CHARLESTON CHURCH SHOOTING

All schools in Charleston County were on lockdown Thursday as a precaution as cops hunted for the killer.

Eight of the nine victims died inside the church. The ninth died later at a nearby hospital. Three people survived the massacre, police said, providing no further details.

Police have not identified any of the victims killed in the bloodbath, but friends named Pinckney as one of the victims.

"He never had anything bad to say about anybody, even when I thought he should," said State House Minority leader Todd Rutherford (D-Columbia). "He was always out doing work either for his parishioners or his constituents. He touched everybody."

Pinckney's cousin Kent Williams said the slaying of the young husband and father was horrifying.

"It's just a huge, huge loss and a sad, sad thing that has taken place," he said on CNN Thursday.

"It is devastating that someone would go into God's house and commit a crime. It is beyond my imagination.

His colleagues in the Senate draped a black cloth over his desk Thursday morning to pay tribute to the slain senator,WIS-TV reported.

Mother Emanuel calls itself "the oldest AME church in the south.” It traces its roots to 1816, when several churches split from Charleston's Methodist Episcopal church.

One of its founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to organize a slave revolt in 1822. He was caught, and white landowners had his church burned in revenge.

Parishioners worshipped underground until after the Civil War.

Edgar Sandoval reported from Charleston, S.C.

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