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21-year-old charged with nine murders

Dylann.jpg
Dylann.jpg

A 21-year-old man has been charged with murdering nine people during a shooting spree in a Charleston church.

Dylann Storm Roof, who was also charged with weapons possession, is scheduled to make his first South Carolina court appearance at 2pm local time (7pm BST).

He is unlikely to appear in court, as most initial hearings are conducted over a video link with the county jail. He also faces a charge of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime after the killings at The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

The shooting took place on Wednesday during a Bible study event at the church.

Victims included a state senator who was also the church's minister. Charleston officials have announced a prayer vigil for Friday evening.

South Carolina's governor Nikki Haley said the person responsible for the shooting should get the death penalty.

An acquaintance of the suspect said Roof had complained that "blacks were taking over the world".

Joey Meek, a former friend who reconnected with Roof a few weeks ago, said that the suspect declared during a drinking session that "someone needed to do something about it for the white race".

Mr Meek called the FBI after recognising Roof in the video, down to the stained sweatshirt he wore while playing videogames in Mr Meek's home the morning of the attack.

"I knew it was him," Mr Meek told reporters.

During their reunion a few weeks ago, Roof said he had bought a .45-calibre Glock pistol and that he had "a plan," Mr Meek said.

Mr Meek said this scared him enough that he took the gun out of Roof's car and hid it in his house until the next day.

Police captured Roof in North Carolina after a motorist spotted him at a traffic light on her way to work.

The city's mayor Joe Riley described the shooting at the church as an act of "pure, pure concentrated evil".

Others bemoaned the loss to a church that has served as a bastion of black power for 200 years, despite efforts by white supremacists to wipe it out.

Surveillance video showed the gunman entering the church, without appearing threatening, Charleston County coroner Rae Wilson said.

"The suspect entered the group and was accepted by them, as they believed that he wanted to join them in this Bible study," she said.

Then, "he became very aggressive and violent".

Spilling blood inside a black church - especially "Mother Emanuel," founded in 1816 - evoked painful memories across the US, a reminder that black churches have often been the targets of racist violence.