Victim's Cousin: Charleston Gunman Told Victims 'I Have To Do It'

| by Jared Keever

Update - 11:39 a.m.:

Multiple news agencies, including WGHP News, report Roof has been captured in Shelby, North Carolina. He is now reportedly in police custody.

Original Story:

The suspected gunman, who fatally shot nine people during a Wednesday night Bible study at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, reportedly went on a racist rant in the moments before and after he opened fire, telling his victims, “I have to do it.”

Authorities have identified the suspect as 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, Opposing Views reports.

Roof is believed to be behind the shooting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that left nine dead, including State Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney, the church’s pastor, according to the New York Daily News.

Pinckney’s cousin, Sylvia Johnson, was not present at the church Wednesday but told NBC News that she has spoken to survivors of the shooting

She said survivors told her that Roof sat next to Pinckney throughout the Bible study and then began shooting as the class was wrapping up. 

“He just said, ‘I have to do it,’” Johnson told an NBC News affiliate, recounting what a survivor had told her. “He said, ‘You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.’”

Johnson said one survivor told her Roof reloaded his gun five times during the shooting. 

“No one in this community will ever forget this night,” Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen said at a Thursday news conference, according to the Daily News. “This is a situation that is unacceptable in any society, especially in our society and our city.”

Police have not released the names of any of the six women or three men who were killed. But family and friends have told news agencies that Pinckney is among the victims. 

Roof is still at large. Charleston police have concentrated their search efforts to the area around the church.

“We have no reason to believe that he is not in the Charleston area,” Mullen said, according to the Daily News, adding that authorities are circulating information about the suspect, and his vehicle, to police agencies across the country. 

Roof is said to be 5 foot 9 inches tall, with sandy blond hair. He was last seen wearing blue jeans and a gray sweatshirt and driving a dark sedan. 

Sources: Opposing Views, New York Daily News, NBC News, WGHP News

Photo Credit: New York Daily News via Facebook