By BosNewsLife Americas Service with BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
CHARLESTON, USA (BosNewsLife)–U.S. police say they have detained shooting suspect Dylann Roof who allegedly killed nine people during an overnight prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina, one of the oldest black churches in the nation.
Roof, 21, was taken into custody in Shelby, North Carolina, more than a three-hour drive and roughly 350 kilometers (230 miles), north-northwest of Charleston, BosNewsLife monitored.
He was carrying a gun when arrested, police said.
Witnesses of the attack told reporters that the clean-shaven white man stood up and said he was there “to shoot black people” late Wednesday, June 17, local time. The shooter is also thought to have used a handgun, according to investigators.
The church’s Pastor Clementa Pinckney, who is also a Democratic Party legislator in the South Carolina state’s senate, and a family member were among those killed.
Christians could be seen praying and comforting each other near the church building where eight people died on the scene. A ninth person later perished in hospital.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said she had been praying for the victims and their families. She thanked law enforcement for their efforts in the arrest of the Charleston church shooting suspect.
Reporters noted that she appeared on the verge of tears when telling police: “You have now allowed us to start healing and tell children that the suspect is in custody.”
She said this was a “very, very sad day in South Carolina, but it is a day that we will get through.”
The church is one of the nation’s oldest black churches, according to experts. The Gothic Revival church was built in 1891 and is considered a historically significant building, said the National Park Service.
The congregation was formed by black members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church who broke away “over disputed burial ground,” added the National Park Service. In 1822, one of the church’s co-founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to foment a slave rebellion in Charleston, the church’s website said.
That plot was foiled by the authorities and 35 people were executed, including Vesey.
The U.S. has suffered several fatal church shootings in recent years, amid an ongoing debate on the massive availability of fire arms in the country.