UPDATE, 9:35 A.M.:
According to a Columbia, S.C. TV station, the suspect in Wednesday's mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston has been arrested. News 19 WLTX reports that Dylann Storm Roof, 21, was taken into custody by police in Shelby, N.C. this morning.
ORIGINAL POST, 9:21 a.m.:
Nine people are reported dead following a mass shooting at a Charleston, S.C., church last night, with the suspected gunman still on the loose.
Officials with Berkeley County, S.C. identified the suspect as Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old man from Columbia, S.C. Roof allegedly entered the church in downtown Charleston around 8 p.m. June 17. After observing a prayer meeting for about an hour, witnesses said he began opening fire.
- Pastor and South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney is believed to be among the dead in Wednesday's mass shooting.
Both state and federal law enforcement are considering the mass shooting a hate crime.
According to NBC News, a witness reported that prior to opening fire, Roof said to the group "You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go."
Founded in the early 1800s, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church's historically black congregation long worshiped in secret and functioned as a part of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. An early church building was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1880s, after which the current structure was built. Civil rights luminaries including Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. and former NAACP Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins all delivered speeches there.
NAACP President Cornell William Brooks in a CBS News interview this morning called the shooting "morally incomprehensible," a "desecration of the soul of the country" and a "flesh-and-blood obscenity."