Washington, June 18:
Shock and anger engulfed America as police nabbed a white young man who killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston in South Carolina, saying he was there “to shoot black people”.
Mourning the nine deaths at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church late on Wednesday night, America’s first African-American President Barack Obama said the shooting rekindles memories of a “dark part of our history”.
In a short and sombre statement from the White House on Thursday, Obama also restarted a debate over the nation’s recent history with gun violence, saying, “I’ve had to make statements like this too many times”.
“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 developed countries,” he said.
According to CBS, this was the 14th time Obama made a statement after a mass shooting.
It was another example, he said, of innocent people being killed because someone who “wanted to inflict harm” had “no trouble getting their hands on a gun”.
Police on Thursday arrested the suspect identified as Dylann Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina in Shelby, North Carolina, a town east of Charlotte and just north of the South Carolina state line after a massive manhunt.
After Roof’s arrest, South Carolina’s Indian-American governor Nikki Haley said: “We woke up today and the heart and soul of South Carolina is broken.”
“So we have some grieving to do, and we have some pain we have to go through,” said a choked-up Haley.
“Parents are having to explain to their kids that they can go to church and feel safe, and that’s not something we’ve had to deal with.”
Charleston officials said the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were helping with the investigation, which is being categorised as a “hate crime”.
The Justice Department is also opening a parallel hate crime review into the case.
Roof spent an hour in a prayer meeting at the church on Wednesday night before he opened fire, CNN reported citing Charleston police chief Greg Mullen.
Among those killed were Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a state senator. Other victims in the Charleston church shooting were six women and two men.
Three people survived, 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’,” Dot Scott, president of the Charleston unit of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), told CNN.
Scott said she heard this from the victims’ family members.
The NAACP is a civil rights organisation for ethnic minorities in the US.
According to Atlantic weekly, the shooting spree in Charleston was the latest assault on black churches for generations.
Black churches have suffered at the hands of thugs and terrorists throughout the Civil Rights era, as they had for a century before.
On September 15, 1963, Klu Klux Klan terrorists bombed the 16th Street Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four girls, it recalled.
As recently as the 1990s, a wave of fire-bombings hit black churches.
The Atlantic identified at least eight black churches in South Carolina alone that suffered probable arson attacks. (IANS)