Nine killed in Charleston church shooting, family member identifies suspect

Dylann Roof mugshot at Charleston County Detention Center. (Source: CCDC)
Dylann Roof mugshot at Charleston County Detention Center. (Source: CCDC)
Source: WBTV
Source: WBTV
Dylan Roof (Photo: Lexington County Jail)
Dylan Roof (Photo: Lexington County Jail)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - By Raymond Rivera, Philip Weiss, and Patrick Phillips

The father and uncle of the 21-year-old man accused of shooting nine people at a historic downtown Charleston church notified police and positively identified him as the person shown in surveillance photographs, according to court affidavits released Friday.

Dylann Roof remains locked up at the Al Cannon Detention Center following his extradition from North Carolina and a bond hearing Friday afternoon, charged with nine counts of murder and one count of possession of a deadly weapon in the commission of a violent crime. 

Court documents allege Roof entered the Emanuel AME Church at 110 Calhoun St. at approximately 8:06 p.m. where he met with parishioners who were conducting a bible study. After approximately an hour of studying, Roof stood up, pulled out a handgun and began shooting at the parishioners inside the hall, striking nine people, an affidavit states.

Investigators say prior to leaving the bible study room, Roof stood over a witness and uttered "a racially inflammatory statement to the witness."

Video surveillance from the church captured a dark Hyundai Elantra pulling into a parking place at the church lot around 8:06 p.m. and showed a man matching Roof's description climbed out and walked inside the church; the same video shows the same person, approximately an hour later, emerging from the church, looking both ways, exiting the building carrying a handgun, then getting into the same vehicle and fleeing the scene, the affidavit states.

Roof's father and uncle contacted Charleston investigators and positively identified Roof and his vehicle after recognizing them in surveillance photos, according to court documents. Roof's father also told investigators his son owned a .45 caliber handgun, the affidavit states.

Police say .45 caliber fired casings were recovered from the crime scene. Court documents also state DMV records show Roof as being the registered owner of a black 2000 Hyundai Elantra.

Charleston County Sheriff's Office officials said Roof is being held in protective custody, isolated in a cell next to former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, who faces a murder charge in the April 4 shooting of Walter Scott.

Attorneys say Roof waived extradition in a Cleveland County courtroom in North Carolina early Thursday afternoon. Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said Roof was taken into custody just after 11 a.m. following a traffic stop in Shelby, North Carolina.

On Thursday afternoon, the Charleston County Coroner's Office identified the nine people who were killed at a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church.

Coroner Rae Wooten said the following died in Wednesday night's shooting: 54-year-old Cynthia Hurd, 87-year-old Susie Jackson, 70-year-old Ethel Lance, 49-year-old Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 41-year-old Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders, 74-year-old Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr. (who died at MUSC), 45-year-old Sharonda Singleton and 59-year-old Myra Thompson.

Public records show Roof was most recently arrested in March in Lexington County on drug charges.

Charleston Police released surveillance photos of the suspect during a 6 a.m. news conference. He was later identified by authorities shortly after 10 a.m. He was described as a white male, 21 years old, slender/small build, gray sweat shirt, blue jeans and clean shaven, and believed to be driving a dark in color Hyundai Elantra with vehicle tag LGF330.

Mullen: Shooting being investigated as hate crime

"We woke up today and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken and so we are grieving and we have some pain we have to go through," said Gov. Nikki Haley on Thursday. "Parents are having to explain to their kids how they can go to church and feel safe and that's not something we ever thought we would deal with. Having said that we are a strong and faithful state. We love our state, we love our country and most of all we love each other."

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The shooting is being investigated as a hate crime, Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said.

"This is clearly a tragedy in the City of Charleston," Mullen said."We are all praying and our hearts go out to the victims and their families as well as this entire community...When officers arrived they found a number of victims inside and we had also individuals who were transported to the MUSC emergency trauma center. As the investigation continued we were able to determine that there were eight deceased individuals inside of the church."

"We have investigators that are out tracking, leads are coming in and we will continue to do that until we find this individual who carried out this crime tonight and bring him to justice," Mullen said Wednesday night. "This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience. It is senseless, it is unfathomable that somebody in today's society would walk into a church when people are having a prayer meeting and take their lives."

"This is a most unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy," said Mayor Joe Riley. "People in prayer on Wednesday evening. A ritual of coming together, praying and worshiping God, and to have an awful person come in and shoot them is inexplicable. Obviously, the most intolerable and unbelievable act possible."

SLIDESHOW: Shooting reported at downtown Charleston church

"The only reason someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is out of hate, the only reason," Riley said. "It is the most dastardly act that one can possibly imagine, and we will bring that person to justice as soon as possible."

A helicopter assisted law enforcement on the scene. Witnesses reported a big police presence was seen at the Emanuel AME Church on Calhoun Street. The FBI and the Chaplain service are also on the scene. 

"We have all the resources that are available to us, not only locally but from the state as well as federal agencies," Mullen said. "We have resources that are being flown in right now from Washington, D.C. that will help us not only track leads but also work this investigation. And I can say that we will put all effort, we will put all resources and all of our energy in finding the individual who committed this crime tonight."

"The message to the community is that this is an opportunity for us all to unite because of a significant tragedy that has occurred," Mullen said.

Mullen said he can understand the anger and upset throughout the community, but he urged calm and unity to pray for the families and help police track down the person responsible.

"And what we need is for the community to look at this and say, 'We have had enough of this violence, and if we stand up together, we can stop this violence.' And that's what we need the community to do," he said. 

Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, released a statement echoing those sentiments.

Brooks said while he is outraged over the hate crime, the NAACP is sending their prayers and condolences to the victims and their families.

Calhoun Street between Meeting Street and Anson Street, as well as Anson Street between Calhoun Street and George Street remain closed while police continue to investigate.

Man cleared following arrest on scene; Bomb threat called in

A man matching the suspect's description who was initially arrested at the scene has been released. 

The man, later identified as local photographer Austin Rich, says he was released after being questioned by police officers. 

Around 11:30 p.m., police began pushing media and bystanders across Meeting Street after officers say a bomb threat was reported in the area of the crime scene. Officials announced Thursday at 12:45 a.m. the bomb threat had been called off. 

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