(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Police and federal law enforcement agencies were in the midst an all-out manhunt Thursday morning for the gunman they say is responsible for killing nine people in a Charleston South Carolina church Wednesday night in what police described as a hate crime.
The suspect opened fire on a bible study group at the historic black Emanuel AME Church on Calhoun street, killing eight people in an “unfathomable” act of violence. One other person was rushed to the hospital and died. Police originally said two people were hospitalized.
In a chilling twist, police said the alleged gunman, whom the mayor called a “horrible scoundrel,” was inside the church attending the prayer meeting with worshipers for almost an hour.
Police said that three of the victims were males and six were females. Their ages were not clear.
Three people survived the shooting, but details about them were not immediately available.
“This is a situation that is unacceptable in any society and especially in our society and our city,” Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen said.
Early Thursday morning, police released pictures from surveillance footage showing the suspect, a younger white man, approximately 21-25 years old, as well as the car he was driving, police said.
“This is an extremely dangerous individual,” Mullen said.
The suspect was described as approximately 5-foot-9, wearing a sweatshirt with distinctive markings and Timberland boots, police said. Joining the search was the FBI and state law enforcement.
Police also said the car he was driving had a “very distinctive” license plate. Officials would not elaborate on the make and model of the car.
“This is a all hands on deck effort with the community and law enforcement,” Mullen said.
Police said they had set up a tip line — 1-800-CALL-FBI — and advised the public to be alert and said to call 911 and not approach.
“When people go out they should be vigilant,” Mullen said.
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