The white gunman who killed nine people Wednesday night at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C. reportedly told the victims “you rape our women and you’re taking over our country,” a relative of one of the dead told NBC News.
Sylvia Johnson, the cousin of the church’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, told NBC News that the gunman reportedly entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and asked for Pinckney. Johnson said the shooter sat next to Pinckney, who also served as a Democratic state senator, for the duration of the Bible study, before opening fire and killing several people, including her cousin.
Johnson told the network that an eyewitness told her the gunman “reloaded five different times” and couldn’t be talked down during his shooting rampage.
“He just said, ‘I have to do it,’” Johnson told NBC News. “He said, ‘You rape our women and you’re taking over our country and you have to go.’”
Dot Scott, the Charleston chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told the The Post and Courier newspaper that a female witness was told she was allowed to live because the gunman wanted her to recount the shooting.
Scott repeated this story about the female survivor, in audio played Thursday on CNN’s “Newsroom.”
“Over a dozen times on last night it was said that this victim who was not shot but was there, her life was spared because the shooter said ‘I am not going to shoot you’ or ‘I’m not gonna, I’m going to let you go because I want you to be able to tell them what happened,'” Scott said.
Listen to Scott’s statement, from CNN:
Ahiza Garcia is a newswriter based in New York City. Before joining TPM, Ahiza interned and freelanced for Nightline, Fox Sports, and ESPN the Magazine. She holds a B.A. in psychology from Columbia University and an M.S. in digital journalism from Syracuse University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.