Charleston Church Shooting
On June 17, 2015, nine parishioners of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina lost their lives in a mass shooting committed by 21-year-old Dylann Roof. As all those slain were African American and the shooting took place at one of the nation’s oldest black churches, this is yet another horrific event that sparks the discussion of race relations in America.
Roof attended an evening Bible study at the church, and nearing the end of the discussion, declared that he was “only there to shoot black people” before opening fire on the small group. In all, ten people were shot, with nine slain and one injured. One member of the Bible study group was spared by the shooter in order to tell what events unfolded there and to pass along Roof’s racially driven message. A statewide manhunt was held to bring Roof into police custody, and the shooter was eventually captured the following morning in Shelby, North Carolina.
Thus far, Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder and one count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, but he is also being investigated by the US Department of Justice as the shooting is being viewed as a possible hate crime and act of domestic terrorism.
In the aftermath of other racially charged events such as those that have taken place in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City, there is something distinctively different about the atmosphere surrounding the Charleston shooting that is hopeful. Instead of inciting riots and mass lootings, this tragic event has helped reunite the community and bring about momentum for change. The loved ones and family members of those lost in the shooting made national headlines when they publicly voiced their forgiveness for Roof, and the granddaughter of one of the victims has launched a campaign called “Hate Won’t Win” with the objective of reaching out and showing kindness towards those who are different from you. Legislators are also moving forward with acts to nullify laws protecting Civil War emblems in response to the call to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol building.