US church massacre suspect arrested

Suspected killer of nine people at African-American church in South Carolina, Dylan Roof, arrested in North Carolina

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

A man in his 20s suspected of killing nine people in an attack at an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina was taken into custody on Thursday.

Police are investigating the fatal attack as a hate crime.

Police chief Gregory Mullen said officials arrested suspected gunman Dylann Roof after a road check in Shelby, North Carolina.

"This individual committed a tragic, heinous crime last night," Mullen said.

Authorities launched a civil rights investigation regarding the attack. US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said they were researching whether the crime was motivated by racial or other prejudices.

US President Barack Obama also spoke regarding the issue on Thursday.

"The fact that this took place in a black church obviously raises questions about a dark part of our history,we don't have all the facts but we know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” he said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC),a research centre in Alabama, focused on examining US hate groups, emphasised the danger of domestic extremists after similar cases.

According to the SPCL, South Carolina is home to some 19 hate groups such as the Ku Klux Kan and four other “white nationalist” organisations, as the state has been scene to a number of racially motivated attacks in the past.

In April, an unarmed black man, Walter Scott, was fatally shot by a white North Charleston police officer in a daytime traffic stop for non-functioning brake light, which locals claimed to be a racially motivated act.

Police chief Mullen said that about an hour before the attack, Dylan Roof sat and spoke with the churchgoers in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Only three survived the attack while eight of the victims were found dead in the church, one died after being taken to hospital.

According to court records, Roof was charged with two other cases in the past including trespassing and drug offence.

President of the Charlestown National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Dot Scott told local newspaper the Post and Courier that the shooter told one of the survivors that he would not kill her so she could tell the others what happened in the incident.

Governor Nikki Haley spoke to reporters regarding the tragic incident.

“It is a very, very sad day in South Carolina, but it is a day that we will get through. Parents are having to explain to their kids how they can go to church and feel safe, and that's not something we ever thought we'd deal with,” she said.

The bloody incident that took place on Wednesday followed after months of racially charged demonstrations over brutal police killings of black men.

Recent police killings of unarmed black men including Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and Michael Brown, ignited protests in New York, Baltimore, Ferguson, Missouri and other cities.

TRTWorld and agencies