Join the community and the Bethlehem NAACP Wednesday, June 24th for a PRAYER VIGIL for CHARLESTON, SC at 6:30pm, St. John A.M.E. Zion Church, 718 Pawnee St., Bethlehem, PA 18015 Rev. Gracher Selby, Pastor. Sponsored by Bethlehem NAACP
Charleston, South Carolina (CNN)Before he allegedly opened fire on members of a Bible study group at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, Dylann Roof sat with them. He might have prayed with them.
A Snapchat video from Wednesday night at the historic African-American church shows Roof at a table with the small group. Nothing in the footage suggests the carnage to come.
Police say Roof shot and killed nine people inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, near the heart of Charleston’s tourist district. Eight died at the scene; a ninth died at a hospital.
Authorities were shocked not only by the killings but that the violence occurred in a house of worship.
“People in prayer Wednesday evening. A ritual, a coming together, praying, worshiping God. An awful person to come in and shoot them is inexplicable,” said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.
Six women and three men were killed, including the church’s politically active pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of Pinckney, said she heard about what happened inside the church from a survivor, a close friend.
Johnson told CNN her friend recounted the man coming into the church, asking for the minister.
“My cousin, being the nice, kind, welcoming person he is, he welcomed him to his congregation, welcomed him to the Bible study, and he sat there for an hour … At the conclusion of the Bible study, they just heard just a ringing of a loud noise, and it was just awful from what I heard,” Johnson said.
When the son of her friend pleaded with the shooter to stop, Johnson said the gunman replied: “‘No, you’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country … I have to do what I have to do.’ And he shot the young man.”
Her friend pretended she was dead.
“But she watched her son fall and laid there. She laid there in his blood,” Johnson said.
From what she heard, the gunman reloaded five times.
Before he left the church, he asked one of the elderly members whether he had shot her, and she said no.
“And he said good, because we need a survivor because I’m going to kill myself,” Johnson told CNN.
A law enforcement official said witnesses told authorities the gunman stood up and said he was there “to shoot black people.”
The president of the NAACP expressed his outrage at the violence.
“There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of scripture,” Cornell William Brooks said.