Dylann Roof arrested in Charleston church shooting

On Wednesday June 17th, a man entered a bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where he sat for fifty minutes before opening fire, killing 9 people and driving away.

Amongst the dead is Pastor and Democratic member of the South Carolina Senate, Clementa Pinckney. Pinckney campaigned for police to wear body cameras after African American Walter Scott was shot and killed, as he tried to run away from police in North Charleston.

Dylann Roof, the 21 year old suspect, who has since been arrested by police, was identified through CCTV footage by his uncle, who said that Roof had received a gun for his 21st birthday in April.

The shooting has since been dubbed a hate crime by many commentators. Police Chief Gregory Mullen said, “It is unfathomable that somebody in today’s society would walk into a church when people are having a prayer meeting and take their lives.”

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is significant because the church has the largest black congregation south of Baltimore. It was targeted in 1822 when it was burnt by white landowners, it has a deep history in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Dylann Roof was arrested in Shelby, North Carolina, on Thursday after police were tipped off by a local business. Roof was allegedly stopped shortly after in his vehicle. In court, Roof waved his right to extradition and will be transported back to South Carolina.

In his address, President Barack Obama states, “I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. We don’t have all the facts, but we do know once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. Now is the time for mourning and for healing, but let’s be clear, at some point we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.”

With any mass shooting, the focus will now likely turn to motive, to Roof’s state of mind, and will reignite debates concerning gun control and racial tensions in the United States.