Churchgoers killed in cold blood by race-hating gunman
Churchgoers killed in cold blood by race-hating gunman
Two reverends, a grandmother, a library worker and a recent university graduate were among the victims gunned down in a South Carolina church last night, it has emerged.
Six women and three men were allegedly shot dead by Dylann Roof, 21, during a bible study meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston at 9pm on Wednesday.
Roof was taken into custody in Shelby, North Carolina today after an overnight manhunt.
Among the victims was 41-year-old Reverend Clementa Pinckney, pastor of the church and a South Carolina state senator, who has been remembered as a ‘giant’ and a ‘legend’ by his peers.
The eight other victims, aged between 26 and 87, were named by the coroner on Thursday.
They were identified as Tywanza Sanders, 26, Sharonda Singleton, 45, DePayne Middleton, 49, Cynthia Hurd, 54, Myra Thompson, 59, Ethel Lee Lance, 70, Daniel Simmons, 76, and Susie Jackson, 87.
On Thursday, the county coroner said all victims will undergo autopsy.
The Reverend Singleton, 45, was a mother-of-three and a ministerial staff member at the church. She also coached the girls track team at Goose Creek High School.
‘We love you, Coach Singleton,’ the team wrote on its Facebook page. ‘Gator Nation is where it is today because of your leadership. You have our thoughts and prayers.’
Her son, Chris Singleton, who is at college, wrote on his Twitter page after the shooting: ‘Something extremely terrible has happened to my mom tonight, please pray for her and my family. Pray asap.’
On Instagram, he shared an image of his mother beside the Reverend Pinckney, and wrote: ‘In this pictured are two new Angels in the sky. One of them happens to be my mommmy.
‘It’s funny how I always told you that you went to church too much. You would laugh it off and say, “Boy you can never have too much of the Lord.”‘
She was killed alongside fellow church-goer Tywanza Sanders, who graduated from Allen University’s division of business administration in Columbia last year.
‘He was a quiet, well-known student who was committed to his education,’ according to a statement from Allen University.
‘He presented a warm and helpful spirit as he interacted with his colleagues. Mr. Sanders was participating in the Bible Study session at Mother Emanuel church at the time of the shooting.’
His social media pages also indicate he worked at a barber shop.
Sanders posted his last Instagram picture before the meeting last night.
‘A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives,’ it read, quoting Jackie Robinson.
Another victim, Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49, had retired in 2005 as Charleston County director of the Community Development Block Grant Program.
On Facebook, her sister paid tribute to her ‘beautiful Songbird’.
‘I will truly miss you my love,’ she wrote. ‘Your beautiful personality, your laughter, your smile, and your love for everyone.’
Ethel Lee Lance, 70, an officer at the church, was also killed, her family has confirmed. She at worked at the church for more than 30 years.
‘Granny was the heart of the family,’ her grandson Jon Quil Lance told The Post and Courier. ‘She’s a Christian, hardworking; I could call my granny for anything. I don’t have anyone else like that’.
He added that Lance’s cousin, Susie Jackson, another longtime church member, was also killed.
Another victim, Cynthia Hurd, 54, had worked for 31 years for the Charleston County Public Library, which has closed all 16 locations out of respect to Hurd and the other victims.
‘Cynthia was a tireless servant of the community who spent her life helping residents, making sure they had every opportunity for an education and personal growth,’ the library said in a statement.
‘Her loss is incomprehensible, and we ask for prayers for her family, her co-workers, her church and this entire community as we come together to face this tragic loss.’
Myra Thompson, 59, was also killed at the church, her daughter confirmed but would not comment further.
Daniel L. Simmons, 45, a retired pastor from another church in Charleston, also died. He attended the church every Sunday for services and Wednesdays for bible study, his daughter-in-law said.
Unlike the other victims, he was rushed to hospital but he passed away on the operating table, the coroner said.
The victims were shot beside Reverend Pinckney, who was also in the State senate.
He was a pastor who had recently led rallies after unarmed black man Walter Scott was shot dead by police two months ago.
After the killing, the 41-year-old South Carolina native also played a key role in pushing for legislation for officers to wear body cameras by co-sponsoring a bill recently signed into law.
He was a wunderkind who started preaching at the age of 13 before becoming a pastor at 18. He became the youngest ever African American elected to the legislature when he was just 23.
On graduating from Allen University in 1995, he studied at Princeton, the University of South Carolina and the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
He was elected as a state representative in 1996 before being voted on to the State Senate in 2000. There, the Democrat served on multiple committees, including for finance, banking and insurance, transportation, medical affairs, and corrections and penology.
He is survived by wife Jennifer and two young daughters, Eliana and Malana, and, speaking to CNN on Thursday, his cousin, Kent Williams, said that Pinckney was devoted to his family.
Days before he married his wife in 1999, he told The Savannah Morning News that his then-fiancee had been key to his decision to pursue politics, calling her ‘my main supporter’.
‘He loved his family, took care of his family,’ he said. ‘Just a wonderful guy – what anybody would want in a father, and in a pastor and in a senator anywhere in this country.’
He said that Pinckney’s deep voice would immediately command everyone’s attention and he was always articulate when he spoke.
‘It’s almost like a dream and this hasn’t happened,’ he added. ‘It’s just a huge, huge loss.’
On Thursday, photos showed a black cloth placed over Pinckney’s seat in the South Carolina Senatehouse.
‘He never had anything bad to say about anybody, even when I thought he should,’ State House Minority leader Todd Rutherford said. ‘He was always out doing work either for his parishioners or his constituents. He touched everybody.’
State Senator Marlon Kimpson remembered Reverend Pinckney as ‘a giant’ and ‘a legend’.
‘He was the moral compass of the senate,’ he said.
As news of the shooting emerged on Wednesday night, politicians also passed on their condolences to the families and the communities.
‘Heartbreaking news from Charleston – my thoughts and prayers are with you all,’ Hillary Clinton wrote on Twitter.
‘My heart just breaks for the families,’ Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said on CNN on Thursday morning. ‘I’m also outraged. This is evil … this is beyond evil. This is horrific. This monster needs to be tracked down, needs to be brought to justice.’
Republican Ben Carson added on Facebook: ‘Last night, evil walked the streets of Charleston. My heart aches for the families of the victims. I pray for the families left behind. I pray for the community scared and hurting. I also pray you and I can conquer hatred.’
Williams, the cousin of Reverend Pinckney, also expressed his anger at how the victims had lost their lives.
‘It is devastating that someone would go into God’s house and commit such a crime, he told CNN. ‘It tells me that we can’t be safe anywhere… if you can’t be safe in God’s house. It is despicable.’