Police were searching for a suspect after a gunman opened fire Wednesday night at a church in downtown Charleston.
Charleston police spokesman Charles Francis said the shooting took place around 9 p.m. at the Emmanuel AME Church on Calhoun Street, as a meeting was taking place.
Francis did not specify how many people were shot or their conditions.
He described the suspect as a clean-shaven white male with a slim build, approximately 21 years old, who was wearing a gray sweatshirt, jeans, and boots.
State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, told that after speaking with Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon, It’s my understanding that there are some very serious injuries and possibly deaths.”
An Associated Press reporter on the scene says police helicopters with searchlights are circling overhead in the area, and a group of pastors are kneeling and praying across the street.
The Emmanuel AME church is a historic African-American church that traces its roots to 1816, when several churches split from Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal church.
One of its founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to organize a slave revolt in 1822. He was caught, and white landowners had his church burned in revenge. Parishioners worshiped underground until after the Civil War.