White suspect arrested in killing of nine at black U.S. church

JUNE 19 (Reuters) — A white man suspected of killing nine people in a Bible-study group at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina was arrested on Thursday (June 18) and U.S. officials are investigating the attack as a hate crime.

Law enforcement officials detained alleged gunman Dylann Roof, 21, after a traffic stop in Shelby, North Carolina, about 220 miles (350 km) north of Charleston, said Shelby police chief Jeff Ledford.

“At 10:43 a.m. our officers observed the vehicle traveling west on Dixon boulevard. The suspect was stopped by officers at 10:44 a.m. The officers identified the only occupant of the vehicle as Mr. Roof. Mr. Roof was taken into custody at 10:49 a.m,” Ledford said.

Wednesday’s mass shooting, which occurred after the suspect had sat with parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for an hour, follows months of protests over killings of black men which have shaken the United States.

In a Facebook profile apparently belonging to Roof, a portrait showed him wearing a jacket emblazoned with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and of the former Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, both formerly ruled by white minorities.

The victims, six females and three males, included Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was the church’s 41-year-old pastor and a Democratic member of the state Senate.

Police said Roof was armed with a handgun but surrendered quietly when he was stopped.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said her office was investigating whether to charge Roof with a hate crime motivated by racial or other prejudice.

Under federal and some state laws, such crimes typically carry harsher penalties, but South Carolina is one of just five U.S. states not to have a hate-crimes law.

Roof was charged on two separate occasions earlier this year with a drug offense and trespassing, according to court documents.