1:18 a.m. ET: BREAKING: The New York Times has reported nine fatalities in the S.C. shooting:
Officials did not release information about possible victims. Chief Greg Mullen said the police believed it was a hate crime.
The gunman has not been arrested yet.
1:10 a.m. ET.: This evening at 9 p.m., an as-yet-unidentified or apprehended man opened fire at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, S.C. Some media outlets are reporting fatalities: “The police described the gunman as a clean-shaven white man about 21 years-old who was wearing a gray sweatshirt, bluejeans and Timberland boots,” reports the New York Times:
The church is one of the nation’s oldest black churches. The current pastor, the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, is also a state senator [Democrat]. It was not clear if he was at the church at the time of the shooting.The Gothic Revival-style church was built in 1891 and is considered a historically significant building, according to the National Park Service.
The congregation was formed after black members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the city broke away “over disputed burial ground,” according to the website of the National Park Service. In 1822, one of the church’s co-founders tried to foment a slave rebellion in Charleston, the church’s website says. The plot was foiled by authorities and 35 people were executed.
The church houses the oldest black congregation south of Baltimore, the Park Service said.
There has also been a bomb threat at the church, prompting the evacuation of media and residents. USA Today reports:
Charleston Mayor Joe RIley confirmed to the Charleston Post and Courier that there had been fatalities, but he did not give a number. He was expected to speak at a press conference in the early midnight hours of Thursday morning.
The news organization indicated that nine people had been shot, but police were only saying they had no information on victims. South Carolina Rep. Peter McCoy tweeted that he heard nine people were confirmed dead.
The Charleston-based Post and Courier reports nine shot, “some fatally,” and that Sen. Pinckney was in the church for a service at the time of the shooting. The Reverend Joe Darby, former pastor of neighboring Morris Brown AME and now “presiding elder of the 33 churches in the AME Church’s Beaufort District,” joined parishioners when he heard the news.
By 11 p.m. Wednesday night, he still had no news about who had been shot and whether Pinckney was among them. Normally eloquent and outspoken, he was at a loss to describe what happened. “We just don’t know,” he said softly.
The church’s history is closely tied with founding member Denmark Vesey, who led a slave rebellion that failed, resulting in the church’s going underground until the year the American Civil War ended.
Much social media conversation about the shooting is being posted with hashtag #CharlestonShooting.
Posted by Cara Ellen Modisett