US police on Thursday arrested a white high-school dropout suspected of carrying out a gun massacre at one of the US’ oldest black churches, the latest deadly assault to fuel simmering racial tensions.
Authorities detained 21-year-old Dylann Roof, shown wearing the flags of defunct white supremacist regimes in pictures taken from social media, after nine churchgoers were shot dead during a Bible study class on Wednesday evening.
He was caught at a traffic stop in North Carolina and flown back just hours later to Charleston, South Carolina, the scene of the shootings in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Television footage showed the slender suspect boarding a small aircraft with his hands tied and wearing a black-and-white striped prison uniform.
The carnage was the worst at a US place of worship in decades and recalled the darkest periods of the nation’s history, in a church once burned to the ground after a failed slave revolt.
Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen said: “I do believe it was a hate crime.”
A friend of the accused, 21-year-old Dalton Tyler, told ABC News that Roof had spoken in support of racial segregation and had said “he wanted to start a civil war.”
Members of the historic church’s mainly black congregation, many of them elderly, had gathered on Wednesday for a Bible study meeting when the shooter walked into the building and sat for about an hour before opening fire.
Sylvia Johnson, a relative of one of the victims, told CNN a survivor had told her that the gunman had made a racist rant during the attack.
Johnson said one of the victims tried to talk the shooter out of more killings after he opened fire.
“He said: ‘No, you’ve raped our women and you’re taking over the country. I have to do what I have to do,’” she told CNN.
Johnson also said the shooter told the victims he left survivors so they could tell the story of the shooting.
Three men and six women were killed and more people were wounded. Among the dead was the church pastor, 41-year-old Clementa Pinckney, who was also a Democratic state senator known to US President Barack Obama.
The other victims were Cynthia Hurd, 54; high-school track coach Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; barber Tywanza Sanders, 26; church worker Ethel Lance, 70; church member Susie Jackson, 87; Reverend DePayne Middleton, 49; vicar’s wife Myra Thompson, 59; and Reverend Daniel Simmons, 74.
“The heart and soul of South Carolina was broken,” tearful state Governor Nikki Haley said.
The shooting came at a time of heightened tension in the US after several high-profile killings of unarmed black men at the hands of white police triggered protests and a national debate on race.
A picture on Roof’s Facebook page showed him wearing a jacket emblazoned with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and former white minority-ruled Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
He was also pictured with a car with a license plate referring to the “Confederate States of America,” the secessionist slave-owning south defeated in the US Civil War.
The Atlantic coast city of Charleston is known locally as “The Holy City,” due to its large number of churches, many of them community anchors for a diverse range of ethnic groups.
The scene in the picturesque city as a traumatic 24 hours drew to a close was one of stunned grief, rather than rage, while a small demonstration took place in New York, where some protesters wept at the loss of life.
Dot Scott of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said the shooter might not have drawn attention, because the church is a tourist draw.
“It’s not out of the ordinary that folks just walk into the sanctuary and sit and listen to what’s going on,” Scott told CNN.
The handsome Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church — which on Thursday became the focal point for a grieving community — is the oldest such church in the US’ southern states.
It was founded in 1816 and in 1822 was investigated for its involvement with an unsuccessful planned slave revolt.
The shooting is the latest in a long list of mass shootings in the US.
The deadliest in recent years include the April 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, when 32 were killed, and the December 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, when a total of 27 people were killed, including 20 children. In August 2012, six people were shot dead at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin by a neo-Nazi.
HONG KONG SECURITY: The president blasted regulations requiring Taiwanese agents or political organizations to provide information on their Hong Kong-related activities President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday warned of countermeasures should controversial Chinese national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong undermine or harm Taiwanese interests. Article 43 of the legislation empowers the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to serve written notices to Taiwanese political organizations or individual agents to furnish information on their Hong Kong-related activities, including their personal particulars, finances, assets, expenditure and capital in the territory. Failure to comply or providing false or incomplete information can result in a fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,903) or imprisonment of six months or two years respectively. Tsai said that Taiwan would keep a close watch on how
CAUTION: Taiwanese should be alert, even if they have just liked or shared posts that would breach Beijing’s national security legislation for Hong Kong, the council said Due to the newly implemented Hong Kong national security legislation, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) has drawn up a list of what it described as “high-risk groups,” cautioning them not to travel to Hong Kong. People who support independence for Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang; those who are critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Hong Kong government and the “one country, two systems” concept; and those who donated to or voiced support for the Hong Kong anti-extradition bill movement are urged to refrain from visiting Hong Kong, the council said on its Web site. It released two posts on
MORAL COURAGE: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the global community to face China’s intention to subdue Taiwan and reject such irrational requests The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday strongly condemned the Chinese government for meddling with US officials’ interactions with Taiwan after FBI Director Christopher Wray revealed China’s efforts to discourage US officials from visiting Taiwan. The greatest long-term threat to the US’ information security and intellectual property, as well as its economic vitality, is China’s counterintelligence and economic espionage operations, Wray told a video event at the Hudson Institute in Washington. Beijing is engaged in a highly sophisticated and maligning foreign influence campaign, with methods that include bribery, blackmail and covert deals, he said. Giving an example, Wray said that when a US official
CAUTION: Taiwan had zero cases of death from food poisoning for six years until last year, when two people died after eating wildlife, an FDA official said The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday urged the public not to eat wildlife or unidentified wild plants, as they could be fatal, with nearly 7,000 people affected by food poisoning last year, including two deaths due to wildlife consumption. The number of food poisoning incidents increased by nearly 50 percent last year, from 398 cases involving 4,616 people in the previous year to 503 cases involving 6,944 people, FDA data showed. That figure was the second-highest in history, the FDA said, adding that the highest number was recorded in 1997, with 7,235 people. Among the 503 cases, 87 were food poisoning clusters