As Police in South Carolina release the identity of the suspect in the Charleston church shooting, President Obama issues urgent calls for tougher laws on gun control in America.
Police in South Carolina have released the identity of the suspect in the church shooting Wednesday night as Dylann Storm Roof, aged 21.
Local media report that the man suspected of killing nine people Wednesday night at Charleston’s a historic manuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, was arrested on Thursday morning.
Is Obama going to use this as an excuse to implement further gun restriction laws?
In a speech given on Thursday lunchtime, President Obama told the world’s media, “any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy … There is something particularly heartbreaking about death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace.”
“We do 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,” the President said during a White House press conference. “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. It is in our power to do something about it.”
Obama also said he’s had to “make statements like this too many times,” a reference to some of the rampages that have occurred during his presidency. Since Obama took office in 2009, the U.S. has been shaken by multiple high-profile mass killings involving guns, including shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and two separate incidents at Fort Hood.
“Communities like (Charleston) have had to endure tragedies like this too many times,” he said.
Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul, however, was skeptical that a government solution was available.
“What kind of person goes in a church and shoots nine people? There’s a sickness in our country. There’s something terribly wrong, but it isn’t going to be fixed by your government,” the Kentucky senator said at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference in Washington.
According to law enforcement officials, the suspects father had recently bought him a .45 cliber gun for his 21st birthday in April.
The shooting follows recent controversial plans to drastically limit the sales of handguns in the U.S. by converting all guns into “smartguns” whilst also clamping down on internet forums, blogs and videos by banning the online discussion of guns, in new proposed legislation.
The slayings took place inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, near the heart of Charleston’s tourist district. Six women and three men were killed, including the church’s politically active pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten identified the nine victims as follows: Cynthia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59.
Wooten told reporters that the victims all suffered gunshot wounds and died as a result of them.
Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of Pinckney, said she heard about what happened inside the church from survivors, according to CNN affiliate WIS.
Johnson said survivors recounted the man coming into the church, asking for Pinckney and sitting next to him during a prayer meeting for an hour. He started shooting and reloaded five times, she said.
When a man pleaded with him to stop, the shooter replied, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go,” she said.
A law enforcement official says witnesses told authorities the gunman stood up and said he was there “to shoot black people.”
Police were searching for more information about Roof (whose last name is rhymes with “cough”), and trying to determine if he had any links to hate groups.
Authorities released a mug shot of him from Lexington County Thursday. It was taken after a trespassing arrest in April. According to an arrest warrant from a February incident, Roof had an unlabeled pill bottle with a drug believed to be suboxone, which is used to treat opiate addiction. Roof told police a friend gave him drugs. The status of the cases is unclear.
In an image tweeted by the Berkeley County, South Carolina, government, Roof is wearing a jacket with what appear to be the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and nearby Rhodesia, a former British colony that was ruled by a white minority until it became independent in 1980 and changed its name to Zimbabwe.
Mayor: Only motive to kill during church prayer is hate
Three people survived the shooting, including a woman who received a chilling message from the shooter.
“Her life was spared, and (she was) told, ‘I’m not going to kill you, I’m going to spare you, so you can tell them what happened,’ ” Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott told CNN. She said she heard this from the victim’s family members.
Federal authorities have opened a hate crime investigation into the shooting at the oldest AME church in the South, the Department of Justice said.
“The only reason someone would walk into a church and shoot people that were praying is hate,” Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said.
There were 13 people inside the church when the shooting happened — the nine people who were killed and three survivors, South Carolina state Sen. Larry Grooms, who was briefed by law enforcement, told CNN. Two of the survivors were not harmed, he said.
It was not clear if the man targeted any individual.
“We don’t know if anybody was targeted other than the church itself,” Mullen said.