Pastor Clementa Pinckney, who also served as a Democratic South Carolina state senator, was killed in the Wednesday mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, S.C., according to Charleston television station WCSC.
Pinckney was among the nine people killed when a white man opened fire during a Bible study meeting at his historic black church in downtown Charleston. Police are investigating the shooting as a hate crime, and were still searching for the gunman on Thursday morning.
Pinckney, who started preaching at age 13 and was ordained at age 18, began working at Emanuel AME in 2010, according to Emanuel AME’s website. He was elected to the South Carolina state house in 1996 at age 23, and after two terms was elected to the state senate. Pinckney leaves a wife, Jennifer, and two daughters, Eliana and Malana.
“He never had anything bad to say about anybody, even when I thought he should,” State House Minority leader Todd Rutherford (D) told the Associated Press. “He was always out doing work either for his parishioners or his constituents. He touched everybody.”
Pinckney recently helped pass legislation requiring law enforcement officers to wear body cameras.
“He has sponsored progressive legislation, played a key role in us just getting body camera legislation passed,” Rev. Joseph Darby of the Beaufort AME Church told MSNBC. “He was a very caring and competent pastor and he was a very brave man. And brave men sometimes die very difficult deaths.”
Gov. Nikki Haley (R) signed the bill into law last week. Pinckney helped lead an April prayer vigil for Walter Scott, an unarmed black man fatally shot by a North Charleston police officer, ahead of a hearing for the body camera bill.
“Body cameras help to record what happens. It may not be the golden ticket, the golden egg, the end-all-fix-all, but it helps to paint a picture of what happens during a police stop,” he said of the bill in April, according to South Carolina television station WCBD.
State Sen. Marlon Kimpson told CNN that Pinckney was the “moral compass” of the state senate, and Rutherford told The State that Pinckney went out of his way to never pick a fight during legislative debates.
“He was a man with a booming voice and notable presence, but always a peaceful, calming presence,” Rutherford said.
During a 2013 talk at his church, Pinckney described why, as a pastor, he chose to become involved in lawmaking.
“Our calling is not just within the walls of the congregation, but we are part of the life and community in which our congregation resides,” he said. “Many have made great strides, and we have encouraged others to do so.”
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