Gunman Kills Nine After Opening Fire on Service at Historic African American Church
The shooting occurred at approximately 9 p.m. local time at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. The suspect is believed to have attended the service for about an hour before standing up and spraying the room with gunfire, reloading several times.
According to reports and still-shots of surveillance video outside of the building, the light-skinned suspect had worn a dark wig and plastic nose and sunglasses to conceal his identity. He is believed to have escaped in a dark four-door sedan before police arrived.
When authorities arrived on the scene, they found eight persons who were already deceased. One church member was transported by ambulance to the hospital, but died on the way.
Among the dead was Emanuel AME Pastor and Senator Clementa Pinckney, 41.
“My friend and brother in Christ Senator Clementa Pinckney was shot to death in the senseless tragedy that occurred in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston,” Senator Larry Grooms posted on Facebook. “My heart breaks for the loss of Sen. Pinckney, the other victims and for their families. Now is the time for prayer. Let us all unite our hearts in prayer and ask God for His grace, love and mercy.”
Mayor Joseph Riley, Jr. condemned the bloodshed as well.
“Of all cities, in Charleston, to have a horrible hateful person go into the church and kill people there to pray and worship with each other is something that is beyond any comprehension and is not explained,” he said. “Obviously the most intolerable and unbelievable act possible. … We are going to put our arms around that church and that church family.”
Police Chief Greg Mullen has vowed to find the perpetrator as a manhunt is underway today. The FBI has joined the investigation.
“This tragedy that we’re addressing right now is undescribable,” he stated Thursday morning. “No one in this community will ever forget this night. And as a result of that, and because of the pain, and because of the hurt that this individual has caused this community, this entire community, the law enforcement agencies that are working on this are committed—we will catch this individual.”
Police believe that the suspect is a clean-shaven man in his early 20’s with sandy blonde hair. He appeared to be wearing multiple layers of clothing upon entry to the building.
A motive is not yet known, but officials suspect that the shooting was racially motivated.
|names of the nine victims|
Atheist kills three American Muslims : Yusor Abu-Salha, her sister, Razan Abu-Salha were killed and her husband Deah Shaddy Barakat were shot dead.http://watchmanafrica.blogspot.com/2015/02/atheist-kills-three-american-muslims.html
Shooters of color are called ‘terrorists’ and ‘thugs.’ Why are white shooters called ‘mentally ill’?
This racist media narrative around mass violence falls apart with the Charleston church shooting.
Anthea Butler is an associate professor of religion and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
But listen to major media outlets and you won’t hear the word “terrorism” used in coverage of Tuesday’s shooting. You won’t hear the white male shooter, identified as 21-year-old Dylann Roof, described as “a possible terrorist.” And if coverage of recent shootings by white suspects is any indication, he never will be. Instead, the go-to explanation for his actions will be mental illness. He will be humanized and called sick, a victim of mistreatment or inadequate mental health resources. Activist Deray McKesson noted this morning that, while discussing Roof’s motivations, an MSNBC anchor said “we don’t know his mental condition.” That is the power of whiteness in America.
Early news reports on the Charleston church shooting followed a similar pattern. Cable news coverage of State Sen. and Rev. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Emanuel AME who we now know is among the victims, characterized his advocacy work as something that could ruffle feathers. The habit of characterizing black victims as somehow complicit in their own murders continues.
It will be difficult to hold to this corrosive, racist media narrative when reporting on the shooting at Emanuel AME Church. All those who were killed were simply participating in a Wednesday night Bible study. And the shooter’s choice of Emanuel AME was most likely deliberate, given its storied history. It was the first African Methodist Episcopal church in the South, founded in 1818 by a group of men including Morris Brown, a prominent pastor, and Denmark Vesey, the leader of a large, yet failed, slave revolt in Charleston. The church itself was targeted early on by fearful whites because it was built with funds from anti-slavery societies in the North. In 1822, church members were investigated for involvement in planning Vesey’s slave revolt, and the church was burned to the ground in retribution.
With that context, it’s clear that killing the pastor and members of this church was a deliberate act of hate. Mayor Riley noted that “The only reason that someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is out of hate.” But we need to take it a step further. There was a message of intimidation behind this shooting, an act that mirrors a history of terrorism against black institutions involved in promoting civil and human rights. The hesitation on the part of some of the media to label the white male killer a terrorist is telling.
In the rapidly forming news narrative, the fact that black churches and mosques historically have been the targets of racial violence in America should not be overlooked. While the 1963 Birmingham church is the most historic, there also was a series of church burnings during the 1990s. Recognition of the terror those and similar acts impose on communities seems to have been forgotten post-Sept. 11. The subsequent Islamophobia that has gripped sectors of media and politics suggests that “terrorism” only applies in cases where the suspects are darker skinned.
This time, I hope that reporters and newscasters will ask the questions that get to the root of acts of racially motivated violence in America. Where did this man, who killed parishioners in their church during Bible study, learn to hate black people so much? Did he have an allegiance to the Confederate flag that continues to fly over the state house of South Carolina? Was he influenced by right-wing media’s endless portrayals of black Americans as lazy and violent?
I hope the media coverage won’t fall back on the typical narrative ascribed to white male shooters: a lone, disturbed or mentally ill young man failed by society. This is not an act of just “one hateful person.” It is a manifestation of the racial hatred and white supremacy that continues to pervade our society, 50 years after the Birmingham church bombing galvanized the Civil Rights Movement. It should be covered as such. And now that authorities have found their suspect, we should be calling him what he is: a terrorist.