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Nine dead after gunman opens fire during Bible study meeting at Charleston church

Posted at 10:41 PM, Jun 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-18 09:11:30-04

[Latest developments]

Nine people died in the church shooting. Eight died at the scene; a ninth at a hospital

— There are survivors, said Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen. But he wouldn’t say how many. “We are not going to talk about specific numbers.”

— “He obviously is extremely dangerous,” Mullen said of the shooter. “We will put all our resources, we will put all of our energy in finding this individual.”

— “People in prayer Wednesday evening, a ritual, coming together, praying, worshiping God. An awful person come in and shoot them is inexplicable. Obviously the most intolerable and unbelievable act possible,” said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.

— The incident is being called a hate crime. “The only reason someone would walk into a church and shoot people that were praying is hate,” said Mayor Joe Riley.

[Full story]

Several people were killed in a shooting at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, a source close to the investigation told CNN.

The suspect, described as a white man, is still at large.

The shooting took place Wednesday evening at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest AME church in the South.

Police haven’t said how many people have been shot. But the source who spoke to CNN said several bodies were in the church that were yet to be identified.

“It’s really bad. It’s a very bad scene,” local pastor Thomas Dixon said.

“Apparently the person just entered the church and opened fire. That part has not been fully articulated on what happened yet … they are still looking for the suspect.”

Search on for suspect

Police said the suspect in the shooting is a clean-shaven white man in his 20s, with a slender build. He was wearing a gray sweatshirt, blue jeans and boots.

The department asked anyone with information to call 911 dispatchers.

“While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another,” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said.

charlestonshootingWATCH LIVE: Click here to watch live coverage from the shooting scene. Look for a complete report on CBS 6 News  starting at 4:30 a.m.   

Historic significance

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was formed in 1816 when African-American members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church formed their own congregation after a dispute over burial grounds.

Six years later, one of the church founders was implicated in a slave revolt plot. He wasn’t convicted.

During the case, the church was burned to the ground. It was rebuilt in 1834.

Heavy police presence

Every Wednesday evening, the church holds a Bible study in its basement.

“Like everybody out here, we’re sick to our stomachs that this could happen in a church,” Rep. Dave Mack, a friend of the church’s pastor, told CNN affiliate WCSC.

Corey Wessenger, who was standing across the street from the church, said the area was swarming with law enforcement.

“I just saw a group of about 40 people escorted by cops,” Wessenger told CNN by phone.

Community members gathered in a prayer circle just down the street from the scene.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush canceled a scheduled town hall in Charleston on Thursday “due to the tragic events unfolding in South Carolina tonight.”