State Senator and pastor Rev. Clementa Pinckney was among nine killed when a gunman opened fire Wednesday evening at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., reports stated.
Pinckney’s sister was also killed, according to State House Minority Leader J. Todd Rutherford.
However, her name, as well as the names of the other victims at the church, have not yet been released.
“He was a man driven by public service,” Rutherford told the New York Times.
In addition, “He was my friend, he was my colleague, but he was also my brother in Christ,” said State Senator Lawrence K. Grooms. Grooms had reportedly driven to Charleston from the Statehouse upon hearing the news.
Pinckney, 41, first began preaching at the age of 13, before being appointed as a pastor at the age of 18, according to a biography on the church’s website. He then went on to graduate magna cum laude from Allen University, with a degree in business administration, and then to pursue a master’s degree in business from the University of South Carolina.
At the age of 23, he was the youngest legislator ever elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives; then, in the year 2000, had been elected to the state Senate.
He is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and two daughters, Eliana and Malana.
According to authorities, Dylann Roof, a white male from Lexington, South Carolina, has been taken into custody as the primary suspect in the shootings.
After a 14-hour search for Roof, Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said the 21-year-old “was arrested in Shelby, N.C., during a traffic stop,” shortly after 11 a.m., Thursday.
Mullen said the shooting was likely racially motivated.
According to witnesses at the church, Roof sat with patrons for about an hour during their prayer meeting, then opened fire.
“I have to do it,” Roof reportedly stated. “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the F.B.I., and the United States Attorney’s Office for South Carolina have currently opened a hate crime investigation into the shooting.
“We will now be looking at all of the facts, all of the motivations that led this individual, if in fact he is the shooter,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “It is really premature to determine which is the best venue, either state or federal, to pursue this matter.”
A picture on Roof’s Facebook page, which has been now been deleted, had shown him wearing a jacket decorated with flags from two former white supremacist governments, in apartheid-era South Africa, and Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe.
The page said Roof graduated from White Knoll High School in Lexington; then, reportedly, his father had given him a gun for his twenty-first birthday.
“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times,” said President Barack Obama, in a statement from the White House. “Once again, innocent people were killed, in part, because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”
“Mother Emanuel,” as the church is known, has been called the oldest A.M. E. church in the south, by the National Park Service, which houses the oldest black congregation south of Baltimore.
In 1822, one of the church’s co-founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to incite a slave rebellion in Charleston, according to the church’s website. However, authorities thwarted the plot, and 35 people were executed, including Mr. Vesey.
“There is something particularly heartbreaking about death happening in a place in which we seek solace, and we seek peace,” Obama stated.
“The senselessly slain parishioners were in a church for Wednesday night bible study,” said the president of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks. “There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of scripture.”
Several presidential candidates have canceled upcoming appearances in the Charleston area, and members of the community have continued to hold prayer vigils near the church.