The shooting happened about 9 p.m. at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church at 110 Calhoun Street. Mullen said eight people died inside the church. Another person died at the hospital. At least one other person was taken to the hospital.
The suspect is described as a clean-shaven white male, about 21 years old, with a slender build. He was wearing a gray sweatshirt or hoodie, blue jeans and Timberland boots, Charleston police spokesman Charles Francis said.
A source said the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a South Carolina state senator, was among those shot. The Rev. Al Sharpton tweeted early Thursday morning that Pinckney died in the shooting.
Mullen declined to release names of the victims. He said he believes it was a hate crime.
“This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience,” Mullen said. “It’s senseless and unfathomable that someone would go into a church where people were having a prayer meeting and take their lives.”