Update From Scene of Terrorist Attack in Charleston

Emanuel AME Church. Spencer Means/Wikimedia Commons

Just a quick update about what it currently known–and unknown–about the murders at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, from Harriet McLeod of Reuters:

Police in Charleston, South Carolina, were searching on Thursday for a white gunman who killed nine people in a historic African-American church including the pastor, a black state senator, in an attack the U.S. Department of Justice called a hate crime.

The shooter, a 21-year-old white man with sandy blond hair, sat with churchgoers inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for about an hour on Wednesday before opening fire, Police Chief Gregory Mullen said….

The victims included Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was the church’s pastor and a Democratic member of the state Senate, his cousin and fellow state senator Kent Williams told CNN….

The Charleston church is one of the largest and oldest black congregations in the South, according to its website. It has its roots in the early 19th century, and was founded in part by a freed slave who was later executed for organizing a revolt, according to the U.S. National Park Service.

That would be Denmark Vesey, the architect for the church building, who was among 35 people executed when the alleged slave uprising plan was discovered. The church itself was burned to the ground, but was later rebuilt.

We don’t know yet what the murderer’s motives were (this all happened at a regular Wednesday night prayer meeting which he apparently sat through for some time before opening fire), but we do have this report which fully justifies the “terrorist” label:

The shooter told one survivor he would let her live so she could tell others what happened, the president of the Charleston NAACP, Dot Scott, told the local Post and Courier newspaper.

We’ll obviously be following this story all day.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.