The white man who killed nine people at a historic black church in downtown Charleston on Wednesday had sat with the victims for an hour at a Bible study before opening fire, the Charleston city police chief said at a press conference on Thursday.
Six of the victims were female and three were male, police chief Greg Mullen said. The names of the victims have yet to be released by the coroner’s office.
State House Minority leader Todd Rutherford told The Associated Press on Thursday that that the church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney was killed in the attack.
There were three survivors of the attack left inside the church.
“This is a situation that is unacceptable in any society, and especially in our society, in our city,” Mullen said.
He said that Charleston police were coordinating with the FBI and other law enforcement in the region and urged the media and public to call in with any information about the suspect.
Stills of the suspect, a young adult with a bowl haircut and a skinny frame, and his car were released by police on Thursday.
“We will catch this individual,” Mullen told reporters. He stressed that citizens should not approach the suspect or his vehicle but notify law enforcement.
“This is a very dangerous individual and we do not want more people harmed trying to approach him,” he said.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley praised the efforts of law enforcement and promised to bring the suspect, whom he called a “horrible scoundrel,” to justice.
“This was an unfathomable and unspeakable act by somebody filled with hate and a deranged mind,” Riley said.
“We will of course make sure that he pays the price for this horrible act,” he added.