Charleston police chief Gregory Mullen said in a press conference that police found eight people dead inside the Emanuel AME Church, one of Charleston’s oldest and well-known black churches, after responding to a call of shots fired. Two additional people were taken to hospital and one of those people later died.
The shooting took place at about 9 p.m. while several members of the church were holding a prayer meeting. Police are still looking for the gunman, who is described as a clean-shaven 21-year-old white male with a slim build who was wearing a grey sweatshirt and jeans with Timberland boots.
Mullen told reporters that he believed “it was a hate crime” and said that his department “will put all of our energy into finding this individual.”
“Apparently the person just entered the church and opened fire,” local pastor Thomas Dixon told CNN.
Charleston police also confirmed that a bomb threat was called in on Wednesday night at the scene of the shooting.