A massive manhunt is underway for a crazed gunman who shot and killed 9 people as they prayed inside a historic black Charleston, S.C. church. Six females and 3 males were killed in the massacre on Wednesday night. The gunman reportedly allowed survivors to leave the church so they could tell people what he had done.
The FBI and local authorities are calling the shooting a hate crime.
Surveillance video from outside the historic black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston shows a young white male entering the church around 8 p.m. Wednesday. The gunman is described as approximately 21-25 years ago, 5'-9", slender build, with sandy blond hair in a distinctive bowl haircut. He was wearing a grey sweatshirt, black jeans and Timberland boots.
Dot Scott, president of the Charleston Chapter of the NAACP, told CNN that witnesses told her the shooter attended a prayer meeting with about 12 church members for an hour before he produced a handgun from a black fanny pack and opened fire.
The gunman was quoted as saying, "You people" among other things that suggest the shooting was a racially motivated crime.
After the shooting, the gunman drove away in a black sedan with a "very distinctive" license plate. Authorities declined to say what was on the plate.
"We're committed to finding this horrible scoundrel to make sure he pays the price for this horrible act," said Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. during a press conference on Thursday.
CNN interviewed a cousin of church Pastor and state Senator Clementa C. Pinckney, who is among the 9 dead. "It is devastating that someone would go into God's house and commit such a crime," said Kent Williams.
Senator Pinckney leaves behind a wife and 2 daughters.
"This is outrageous!" said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo this morning. "This is the last place you would think you would be in danger… This is beyond horrific. This monster needs to be tracked down and brought to justice."
Police say they are pursuing "hundreds of leads" in the case.