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Gov. Haley To Reportedly Address Confederate Flag At South Carolina Capitol Grounds

Gov. Nikki Haley has previously stated that the flag is not an issue but demands for its removal increased after Dylann Roof was charged with murdering nine members of a prayer group at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. BuzzFeed News reporters Joel Anderson and Albert Samaha are in Charleston.

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Updated on

What We Know So Far:

  • Several family members of the nine people Dylann Roof, 21, allegedly shot and killed at a historic black church in Charleston told him they forgive him during a dramatic court appearance on Friday.
  • "I forgive you and my family forgives you," a family member for Myra Thompson said at his bail hearing.
  • Roof was denied bond for nine murder charges and was held on $1 million bond for a gun charge.
  • Roof is suspected of fatally shooting three men and six women who gathered for a prayer meeting at a historic black church in Charleston Wednesday night.
  • The Justice Department is reportedly investigating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has launched a hate crime investigation into the attack.
  • President Obama addressed the tragedy Friday, saying, "the apparent motivations of the shooter remind us that racism remains a blight that we have to combat together."
  • Officials said the shooter sat at the church meeting for an hour before opening fire.
  • "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind this is a hate crime," Charleston's police chief said Thursday. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she has launched a hate crime investigation into the attack.

Updates

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Gov. Nikki Haley will address the removal of the Confederate flag from the State Capitol grounds in a 4:00 p.m. press conference, according to reports.

Sources: Nikki Haley To Address Flag - http://t.co/YOseqwopak

The demands for the flag to be removed from the South Carolina Capitol grounds have increased in the wake of the Charleston church shooting that left nine people dead.

Haley has scheduled a press conference for 4:00 p.m. EDT in the lobby of the State House and will reportedly meet with the S.C. Speaker of the House and the Senate president to discuss her plan for the Confederate flag, according to FitsNews.

Haley has previously stated while the Confederate flag is a "sensitive issue" it should not be removed because "not a single CEO" has complained to her about it.

Haley's office did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.

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The scene outside, as people file out of the church:

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Here is the front page of Sunday's Post and Courier newspaper.

Sunday's front page of Charleston's The Post and Courier

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Follow BuzzFeed News reporter Albert Samaha, who is in Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for Sunday's service.

Ten minutes to the start of the service

the organ is playing and the seats are nearly all filled

A woman next to me is trying to explain to her young daughter what happened. The daughter had asked why there are so many people here.

Attendees are many and diverse, so much so that in one pew you have conservative @RickSantorum and activist @deray.

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The Mother Emanuel AME Church, in Charleston, South Carolina, where on Thursday nine people were gunned down during a Bible study, will reopen its doors on Sunday.

On Saturday members of the historic African-American church met in the room where their fellow worshippers were allegedly shot dead by 21-year-old Dylann Roof.

Many members and non-members are expected at Sunday morning's service,scheduled for 9 a.m. ET.

Harold Washington, who attended Saturday's meeting, said the church would be open to all on Sunday.

"We're gonna have people come by that we've never seen before and will probably never see again, and that's OK," Washington told the BBC. "It's a church of the Lord -- you don't turn nobody down."

On Saturday, people from across the country flocked to the vicinity of the historic black church to join a number of pastors in prayer.

Monte Talmadge, a 62-year-old army veteran, told the BBC he drove 300 miles to get to Charleston.

"There was an overwhelming feeling that made me drive here," Talmadge said.

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Speaking in Baltimore, Comey said his agency is investigating the murders as hate crimes, but that he does not believe they meet the legal criteria for terrorist acts.

"Terrorism is act of violence done or threatened to in order to try to influence a public body or citizenry, so it's more of a political act," he said.

"Based on what I know so far I don't see it as a political act. That doesn't make it any less horrific... but terrorism has a definition under federal law," he said.

The official FBI definition of terrorism defines it as "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."

View this video on YouTube

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Accused killer Dylann Roof talked about attacking a college campus a week before the Charleston massacre, a friend said Friday.

Christon Scriven told the Associated Press that he and Roof were drinking on June 10 when Roof revealed plans to go on a mass shooting at the College of Charleston.

However, Scriven, who is black, told the AP he thought his white drinking companion was just drunk. Even so, Scriven and another friend, Joey Meeks, were concerned enough that they hid Roof's gun until they all sobered up, the AP reported.

His account bolstered a narrative discussed earlier by Meeks: that Roof had likely been planning the mass shooting for quite some time before carrying it out at Emanuel AME Church Wednesday night.

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The county magistrate who presided over the bond hearing for Dylann Roof, a white man accused of killing nine people in a historic black church, has been publicly reprimanded in the past for using the N-word in court.

Charleston County Magistrate Gosnell received the public reprimand in 2005 in regard to another bond hearing.

"There are four kinds of people in this world," Gosnell told an African-American defendant in 2003, according to the public reprimand by the state's Supreme Court. "Black people, white people, red necks and n*s."

Gosnell told the defendant the statement was relayed to him by a veteran African American deputy.

The judge argued during his disciplinary hearing that he decided to tell the defendant the phrase "to encourage him to recognize and change the path he had chosen in life."

Gosnell was also disciplined for trying to interfere when a fellow judge was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence — including personally calling a police lieutenant to have the judge released, and then driving to bond court so the arrested judge would not spend the night in jail.

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President Obama on Friday called for a change in gun control laws in the wake of the Charleston massacre.

Speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco, Obama said gun violence "tears at the fabric of the community." He also said that the Charleston shooting in particular reminds the nation "that racism remains a blight that we have to combat together."

"When it's poisoning the minds of young people it betrays our ideals and tears our democracy apart," Obama said.

He then called for discussion about gun violence in the U.S., criticizing those who say any debate about the issue is a "plot to take everybody's guns away."

He also clarified earlier comments about not believing Congress would take action, pointing out that public opinion will be the ultimate driver.

"We have to move public opinion," Obama said. "Ultimately, Congress will follow the people."

He added: "We need a change in attitude, among everybody — lawful gun owners, those who are unfamiliar with guns. We have to have a conversation about it and fix this."

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During Dylann Roof's court hearing Friday, the judge said reminded the audience that there were victims beyond those killed in the church shooting.

Judge James Gosnell said Roof's family were also suffering as a result of the massacre, in which nine people were killed.

"We must find it in our heart at some point in time not only to help those that are victims, but to also help his family as well," he said.

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"The Roof family would like to extend their deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims," the statement read. "Words cannot express our shock, grief and disbelief as to what happened that night."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those killed this week," the statement continued. "We have all been touched by the moving words from the victims' families offering God's forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering."

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Charleston prosecutor reportedly said she will consult with the victims' families before asking for the death penalty against Roof:

MORE: Charleston prosecutor says she'll talk to families before deciding whether to seek death penalty: http://t.co/2khQM6o5Mz

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Law enforcement is still investigating the shooting, but the focus is now shifting to the prosecution.

Wilson vowed to serve justice efficiently and effectively.

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Family members of the shooting victims told Dylann Roof at his bond hearing that they "forgive" him.

The victims' family members were given an opportunity to speak before the judge set Roof's bond at $1 million for the gun charge.

The family members could be heard crying during the court proceedings.

A family representative for Susie Jackson said, "You hurt me, you hurt a lot of people. But god forgive you."

"Repent," began a family member of victim Myra Thompson. "I forgive you and my family forgives you."

Felicia Sanders, who survived the attack with her granddaughter by reportedly playing dead — she is a relative of victim Tywanza Sanders — said, "We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms."

"Every fiber in my body hurts," she said. "God have mercy on you."

#CharlestonShooting suspect Dylann Roof enters room for bond hearing

Video of the proceedings and family comments is here:

Facebook: video.php
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Watch live: Solicitor Scarlett Wilson's press conference following a bond hearing for Dylann Roof.

Someone was praying outside bond hearing court before Dylann Roof to appear for hearing #chsnews #CharlestonShooting

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State officials have set the dates for the special election for the seat of South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the church reverend killed in the shooting.

Rainier Ehrhardt / AP

The desk of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney is draped in black cloth

Filing starts at noon on July 6 and ends on July 13, the South Carolina State Election Commission told BuzzFeed News. The primary will be Sept. 1, the runoff, if necessary, for Sept. 15, and the general election is Sept. 20.

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Dylann Roof and former officer Michael Slager, who shot and killed unarmed black man Walter Scott in North Charleston, are reportedly in cells next to each other.

Charleston Police confirm Dylann Roof & Michael Slager are neighbours now. Roof in cell #1141B. Slager in #1140B

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"We cannot have state a Confederate flag waving in the state capital," he said, which those in attendance starting chanting "got to go."

Brooks called the flag an emblem of hate and refuted claims that the flag is a symbol of heritage.

"The flag has to come down," he said.

Online, people are voicing their disapproval that the flag is not flying at half-mast. A MoveOn.org petition to remove the flag from all government buildings has been signed by more than 113,000 people.

Gov. Nikki Haley claimed that she could do nothing about the flag.

"In South Carolina, the governor does not have legal authority to later the flag," the governor's spokesperson told ABC News on Thursday. "Only the General Assembly can do that."

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A few hours after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for Dylann Roof to receive the death penalty, mayor Joe Riley said that while does not support it, it would be appropriate in this case.

"Personally, I am not a proponent of the death penalty," Riley said in a press conference on Friday, adding that since the death penalty is part of South Carolina's laws, this case would merit it. "People who commit serious crimes should lose their freedoms forever."

Riley said that he believes the death penalty collectively over time adds to violence.

The mayor also addressed the need for a continued dialogue about race and understanding black culture. Riley said there is an African-American museum under construction in Charleston that will enhance the discussion of race.

"We in America, we're never taught African-American history," he said. "We don't know the story, it's not in the history books."

Riley also announced a vigil and prayer service Friday at 6 p.m. and the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund. Donations to the fund will go to the families of the victims. The website for contributions is expected to be up Friday afternoon.

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Roof disagreed about scripture with members of the Bible study group before opening fire on them, a witness' family member told the New York Times.

Roof, wearing a gray sweatshirt, arrived at the Bible study session sometime after 8 p.m. on Wednesday, according to surveillance video. Witnesses said he asked for Rev. Clementa Pinckney when he entered and sat next to him. Pinckney was one of the victims.

Initially Roof listened to the others before he began disagreeing with them about scripture, Kristen Washington, a family member of some of the survivors and victims, told the Times.

Nearly an hour after he sat down at the study session, Roof pulled out a gun. Washington said that her cousin, 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders, told Roof, "You don't have to do this." Roof responded, "Yes. You are raping our woman and taking over the country."

When Roof aimed his gun at Sanders' 87-year-old aunt, Susie Jackson, Sanders asked him to point the gun at him instead, Washington recounted. Roof then said, "It doesn't matter, I'm going to shoot all of you."

Sanders stood between Roof and his aunt to save her, and the first bullet struck him. He was the youngest victim of the shooting, and his aunt, the oldest.

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The Charleston police said Roof was charged with nine counts of murder and a weapons offense:

Dylann Roof bond hearing @ 2 pm today charged with 9 counts of murder & poss of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

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Dylann Roof confessed to the church shooting, NBC News reported.

Roof reportedly confessed to the crime shortly after he was in custody. Sources also told NBC News that Roof told police that he "almost didn't go through" with the shooting because "everyone was so nice to him."

CNN reported he told authorities he wanted to "start a race war."

Law enforcement officials tell @CNN Dylann Roof confessed to shootings in interviews & said he wanted "to start a race war." #AMEShooting

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It is expected that the 21-year-old will be prosecuted for murder, which carries the death penalty in South Carolina.

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A shooting victim's son delivers a message of love Thursday night.

View this video on YouTube

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Chris Singleton, whose mother, Sharonda Coleman Singleton, was killed Wednesday night, said "love is always stronger than hate."

The college baseball player delivered this message with poise, grace, and not an ounce of hate.

"So if we just love the way my mom would," he continued, "then the hate won't be anywhere close to where the love is."

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On Thursday, hundreds of visitors had jammed into the old wooden pews and rafters and even an overflow room of Morris Brown AME Church for a vigil.

Political dignitaries such as Gov. Nikki Haley, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, among many others, had come to offer hope and encouragement to a community in dire need of it.

The day before, and only a few blocks away in downtown Charleston, nine people had been shot and killed in the basement of the nearby historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church — the place where Morris Brown's founders had gotten their start.

"He was hoping to divide our state and country," Haley told the church, referring to the shooter. "But all he's going to do is bring us closer."

Read more about the community reaction here.

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Dylann Roof's roommate said he believes the 21-year-old accused of killing nine people on Wednesday had been "planning something like that for six months."

A mutual friend introduced Roof and Dalton Tyler last year, and the two eventually ended up as roommates. On Thursday, Tyler told ABC News that Roof had been planning some kind of attack.

"He was big into segregation and other stuff," Tyler said. "He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself."

Tyler also told the New York Times that he once was driving with Roof to a strip club when they saw a black woman. According to Tyler, Roof said, "I'll shoot your ass," and used a racial slur.

Another of Roof's friends, Joseph Meek, told the Times Roof wanted "to hurt a whole bunch of people."

Meek — a childhood friend who recently reconnected with Roof — became so alarmed by the comments that he hid Roof's handgun. He later returned the gun, however, because he was on probation and didn't want to get into trouble, the Times reported.

Meek added that he felt guilty about not doing more and that Roof likely targeted Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church "because it was a black church."

Tyler and Meek did not respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment Thursday.

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Roof is scheduled to appear before a judge for a bond hearing Friday afternoon.

Now that Roof is in jail, he faces a bond court judge next. That's slated for 2pm Friday. #CHSnews

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State Rep. Clementa Pinckney's wife and young daughter were inside Mother Emanuel AME Church Wednesday night when a shooter opened fire, killing him and eight other people, a state official told BuzzFeed News.

The wife and child were in a different room when the shooting began, but could hear the gunshots that ultimately killed nine people in the historic church, South Carolina Rep. Carl Anderson told BuzzFeed News on Thursday.

Anderson, who is also chair of the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus, said he spoke with Pinckney's family after the shooting.

"It's my understanding they were in the office," Anderson said. "They were in a different area."

Pinckney, who was also a reverend at the church, has two daughters with his wife, Jennifer.

According to multiple reports, three people survived the shooting, including one person who was told by the shooter that they were being spared to "tell them what happened."

Anderson said it seemed the shooter was unaware anyone else was in the church other than the group taking part in the Bible study.

"He didn't know they were there," Anderson said.

Pinckney was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1996, and he was married in 1999.

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Church shooting suspect Dylann Roof departed an airport in Shelby, North Carolina, Thursday evening en route back to Charleston.

Roof, 21, was seen handcuffed and wearing a black-and-white striped inmate jumpsuit as he boarded a jet to be extradited back to South Carolina.

Charleston shooting suspect boards a plane in North Carolina to be flown back to South Carolina to face charges

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Believe final ed of story on Debbie Dills, who tipped officers, led to Roof's arrest in Shelby http://t.co/jLxL69Lvio

Debbie Dills, a florist, was driving to work when she saw Dylann Roof driving a black Hyundai near Kings Mountain, North Carolina.

She trailed him while her boss called the cops, who made the arrest minutes later.

Dills was driving to work at Frady's Florist in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, when she noticed the black Hyundai on Highway 74, the Shelby Star reported.

She had been watching news coverage of the shooting at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and noticed that the car and its driver's bowl haircut matched the description of the suspect.

Dills then called her boss, Todd Frady, WCNC reported, who then called local police in Kings Mountain.

She told the Star she followed Roof's car until police arrived, a journey that covered some 35 miles.

Read more about Dills' encounter here.

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A friend of the shooter told the Associated Press he recently made surprising, racist comments.

As the AP reported:

Meek says that Roof's racial comments came completely out of the blue and that his friend had been nothing like that before he moved away.

Meek says he could tell something was troubling his friend recently, but he wasn't able to find out what was bothering him before the shooting.
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The alleged shooter is led from a police station in North Carolina:

#DylannRoof looks around at our cameras while being escorted to patrol car. #CharlestonShooting

Shelby PD just took #CharlestonShootings suspect away.@WBTV_News

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Local community leaders said that they were in a state of shock on Thursday.

"I've seen death and destruction," Pastor Thomas Dixon, head of the local community group The Coalition: People United to Take Back Our Community, told BuzzFeed News. "I've seen murders, but usually it's one body, maybe two bodies. But never is it nine bodies at a time. Never is it nine bodies in a church that came out for a Bible study. The jolt to my heart is greater now than in any other situation I've encountered. I can't understand it. I can't explain it."

James Johnson, president of the local National Action Network branch, told BuzzFeed News that the community was still recovering from the death of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man who was shot in the back as he ran from North Charleston police officer Michael Slager.

"It's been very hard," Johnson said. "We're just getting over the Walter Scott shooting. And then the announcement of this hate crime in this church, which is an icon in the community."

To Dixon, the two tragedies were closely connected.

"It's very obvious that there is a strong undertone of racism in this state," he said. "It is overt in many ways, cover in others. We've always tried to express those feelings and yet many people try to deny that it is there."

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Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten officially announced the names of the victims:

Cynthia HurdSusie JacksonEthel LanceRev. Depayne MiddletonRev. Clementa Pinkney Tywanza SandersRev. Daniel Simmons Sr.Myra ThompsonRev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

"We were touched by the terror of such an event," she said. When she heard about the death toll, "my heart started to sink."

Read about them here.

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The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund released this statement:

The LDF vehemently condemns the actions of the gunman who killed nine people and injured three others at the Emanuel A.M.E Church in Charleston, South Carolina yesterday evening. Emanuel A.M.E., which was founded nearly two centuries ago in 1816, is one of the oldest and most prominent African-American churches in the country. Denmark Vessey, who led a slave uprising in 1822 was a founding member of Emanuel A.M.E. church which has come to symbolize freedom and progress in South Carolina.

"Last night's terrible events in Charleston demonstrate how imperative it is that we confront the issue of racial discrimination and violence in our country," said LDF President & Director Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill.

Among those killed was Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney, the Pastor of Emmanuel A.M.E. and a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and the State Senate. Reverend Pinckney recently played a key role in supporting legislation providing body-worn cameras for all South Carolina police officers--a reform that the Legal Defense Fund has actively supported.

Last night's shooting, which the Department of Justice has characterized as a hate crime, stands as a harsh reminder of the racial bias and prejudice that continues to exist in this country and that can and does result in the death of innocent and unarmed African-Americans. The City of Charleston, which remains largely segregated along racial lines, continues to grapple with racial tensions. This is yet another blow to the Charleston community that is still reeling from the killing just two months ago of Walter L. Scott by now-former police officer Michael T. Slager.

"I want to extend my deepest condolences to the families of the victims of this senseless tragedy. The fact that this shooting occurred in a place of worship compounds the gravity and devastation of this crime," said Ifill. "We are relieved that the alleged shooter has been arrested and it is my sincerest hope that an indictment and prosecution will soon follow to send a message that violence perpetrated through hate and racism will be met with justice."

LDF also applauds the Department of Justice's decision to initiate a hate crime investigation into this matter.
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A packed congregation at the Morris Brown AME Church sang "We Shall Overcome" during a vigil for the Charleston shooting victims.

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Morris Brown AME church vigil.

The vigil was interrupted at one point for a reported bomb threat. The area was declared safe shortly after.

Breaking: Morris Brown AME Church evacuated after the #CharlestonShooting vigil because of a bomb threat

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Cynthia Hurd, a St. Andrews Regional Library manager, was identified as a victim.

The library released this statement:

Charleston County Public Library is devastated by the senseless shootings Wednesday night at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston that took the lives of nine members of our community, including one of our own - St. Andrews Regional Library Manager Cynthia Hurd. Cynthia was a tireless servant of the community who spent her life helping residents, making sure they had every opportunity for an education and personal growth.

To honor our co-worker and all those lost, Charleston County Public Library's 16 locations are closed today, Thursday, June 18, 2015.

Cynthia worked with Charleston County Public Library 31 years, serving as branch manager of the John L. Dart Branch from 1990-2011 before becoming manager of the St. Andrews Regional Library.

Her loss is incomprehensible, and we ask for prayers for her family, her co-workers, her church and this entire community as we come together to face this tragic loss.,

Charleston Co. Public Library confirms library manager, Cynthia Hurd, was 1 of the 9 killed in #CharlestonShooting

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President Obama addressed the shootings at the White House.

President Obama on #CharlestonShooting: "To say our thoughts and prayers are with them....doesn't say enough."

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In an emotional press conference, South Carolina officials confirmed the arrest of alleged shooter Dylann Roof in Shelby, North Carolina, and vowed that he will be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

"That awful person, that terrible human being who would go into a place of worship while people were praying and kill them is now in custody, where he will always remain," Mayor Joe Riley said.

Riley, Police Chief Greg Mullen, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley all praised law enforcement officials and thanked citizens for calling in leads — which is how Roof was arrested.

Mullen said a citizen alerted law enforcement to a suspicious vehicle, and, when law enforcement officials responded, they found and arrested Roof.

Roof remains in Shelby but South Carolina officials are going through the process of bringing him back to South Carolina.

"In America we don't let bad people like this get away," Riley said.

Fighting back tears, Haley said there are still a number of unanswered questions, but that South Carolinians need to allow themselves to heal.

"We have to allow ourselves to grieve, allow ourselves to pray, and allow ourselves to question why this happened," Haley said. "Then we must allow ourselves to heal."

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Hundreds gather at the Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston for a noon prayer vigil to honor the nine killed in the shooting.

A church vigil at this hour in #Charleston for the victims. Photo from @ABCLiz We'll be there tonight.

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This is reportedly a scene from the arrest in Shelby, North Carolina:

facebook.com
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The FBI has confirmed the alleged church shooter was arrested.

Subject arrested in #Charleston shooting. Our sincere thanks to the public and our law enforcement partners.

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Multiple media outlets are reporting the Charleston church shooter has been caught. Police would not confirm the arrest to BuzzFeed News.

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1 victim in #Charleston shooting reportedly Goose Creek High's girls track & field coach, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton http://t.co/8C2LgntLm5

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The Berkeley County Sheriff's Office says that Dylann Roof is the shooting suspect:

Suspect in #Charleston shooting identified as 21 yr old Dylann Roof. If you know his whereabouts, call 1-800-CALL-FBI

The flag patches on Roof's jacket represent two white-rule-era African states. The top flag represents apartheid-era South Africa, which held its first free elections in 1994. The bottom flag represents Rhodesia, a former British colony which was under white rule until 1979, after which it became Zimbabwe.

Read more about him here.

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Pinckney received his first appointment to pastor when he was 18 years old, according to the church's website. By age 23 he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. Four years later, he was elected to the state Senate. Pinckney made history as South Carolina's youngest African-American state senator.

Read a full profile on him here.

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The FBI has confirmed it has opened a hate crime investigation into the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston with the Justice Department's Civil Right's Division.

In an emailed statement to BuzzFeed News, Columbia FBI Field Office spokesperson Denise Taiste said:

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the FBI are opening a hate crime investigation into the shooting that took place at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. The investigation is parallel to and cooperative with the state's investigation.
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Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of Rev. Clementa Pinckney — who died in the Charleston church shooting Wednesday night — said she had spoken to a survivor of the attack. According to Johnson, the shooter said he “had to do it,” NBC News reported.

NBC News

Johnson said that the survivor told her the shooter had entered the church asking to see the pastor, before joining a prayer group for the entirety of a Bible study session. He sat next to Rev. Pinckney.

The survivor then said "they started hearing loud noises ringing out" at the end of the bible study, when the shooter fired and wounded two people.

The shooter reportedly reloaded five times, during which time the survivor's son pleaded with him to stop.

At this point, the shooter reportedly said, "I have to do it. You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go.'"

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The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a hate crime investigation into the Charleston church shooting.

BREAKING: Justice spokesman says Federal officials opening hate crime investigation into church shooting.

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Rev. Al Sharpton has released the following statement on Wednesday's shooting in Charleston:

I am shocked and outraged about the killing of nine innocent people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. What has our society come to when people in a prayer meeting in the sacred halls of a church can be shot in what is deemed a possible hate crime?

The Pastor of the church, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, worked closely with our National Action Network Chapter leader and our Vice President of Religious Affairs, Rev. Nelson Rivers. It is chilling to me that just over two months ago while I was in North Charleston over the police shooting of Walter Scott, I'm reminded that Rev. Pinckney was among the clergy who stood with me at that occasion and now he has fallen victim to senseless violence.

We must do what we can to apprehend the killer and we must support the families involved in this tragedy. Demagoguery, increasing tension, and talk of violence will only make a mockery of what we face.

His statement follows from that of NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, who said this overnight Wednesday:

The NAACP was founded to fight against racial hatred and we are outraged that 106 years later, we are faced today with another mass hate crime. Our heartfelt prayers and soul-deep condolences go out to the families and community of the victims at Charleston's historic Emanuel AME Church. 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. Today, I mourn as an AME minister, as a student and teacher of scripture, as well as a member of the NAACP.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott said his "heart was breaking" because of the shooting in a statement published on his Facebook page overnight Wednesday.

Facebook: SenatorTimScott
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Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen, speaking at a press conference Thursday morning, said that the shooter who killed nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston had been at the church for around an hour before the shooting.

Charleston police chief says the church suspect was inside the church for about an hour before shooting

Earlier on Thursday, Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott told the Charleston Post and Courier of an account by a survivor that suggested the shooter was sitting in the church for some time before opening fire. From the Post and Courier:

Church members at Emanuel AME were gathered for a prayer meeting when gunfire erupted in the 19th century building. A female survivor told family members that the gunman initially sat down in the church for a bit before standing up and opening fire, according to Dot Scott, president of the Charleston NAACP.

The gunman reportedly told the woman he was letting her live so she could tell everyone else what happened, Scott said.
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Speaking at a press conference on Thursday morning, Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. described the shooting at Emanuel AME Church as "unfathomable and unspeakable act by someone filled with hate and a deranged mind."

Charleston mayor calls the church shooting “an unfathomable and unspeakable act"

He said that authorities "will make sure he pays the price for this horrible act," and added that they are "committed to finding this horrible scoundrel."

Mayor Riley shared a platform with Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen, who said that of the nine dead, three were male and six were female.

He described the incident as "a situation that is unacceptable in any society and especially in our society and our city."

He reiterated that the shooter is "an individual who should not be approached by anyone." He said, "We do not want more people harmed trying to approach him or follow the vehicle if you see it."

He added that police officers were still working to find out more details about the identity of the shooter, and added, "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind this is a hate crime."

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A shooter killed nine people after opening fire at a prayer meeting in a historic Charleston, South Carolina, church Wednesday night. Authorities are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

People arrived just after the 9:05 p.m. shooting at Emanuel AME Church and found eight bodies inside; another victim was rushed to the hospital and died there, Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said at a news conference.

"This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience," Mullen said. "It is unfathomable that somebody would walk into a church where people are having a prayer meeting and take their lives."

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White male. 21-25 years old. 5 ft 9.