The Charleston parish community rocked by a mass shooting that police have called a hate crime is mourning pastor Clementa Pinckney, who was one of nine people killed in the attack.
Pinckney, also a South Carolina state senator and a married father of two, was reportedly leading a prayer meeting at the Emanuel AME Church when a gunman attending the service opened fire.
Police and the FBI identified the shooting suspect as 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof and report that he has been apprehended in nearby Shelby, N.C., and was armed at the time of his capture.
At an early morning press conference Thursday, Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said the victims included six females and three males. The identities of the other victims have not been released.
Pinckney, 41, is described as having been a dynamic and accomplished community leader.
State House Minority leader Todd Rutherford (D-Columbia) told the Associated Press that Pinckney worked tirelessly to serve his constituents and never spoke ill of others.
“He never had anything bad to say about anybody, even when I thought he should,” Rutherford said. “He was always out doing work either for his parishioners or his constituents. He touched everybody.”
Senator Pinckney was my friend for over 20 years. I’m speechless, heartbroken and angry. God grant his family some peace right now.— Todd Rutherford (@RepRutherford) June 18, 2015
President Barack Obama called Rutherford to express his condolences to Pinckney’s family, the congregation and the people of Charleston, Rutherford said on Twitter.
Pinckney was born on July 30, 1973, in Beaufort, S.C., and spent his life in his home state. He lived in Ridgeland with his wife, Jennifer Benjamin, and their two children, Eliana and Malana.
The family man also had a distinguished academic career.
Pinckney received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Allen University in 1995, his Master of Public Administration from the University of South Carolina in 1999 and his Master of Divinity from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in 2008. He was also a Princeton University research fellow in the summer of 1994.
On Thursday morning, a black cloth could be seen over Pinckney’s desk in the Senate Chamber of the South Carolina State House. His colleagues gathered for a memorial processional and prayer vigil.
The South Carolina Senate Republican Caucus issued a statement mourning his death.
“He was a talented and well respected Senator who represented the people of his church, his community and his state with great character and a servant’s heart,” it reads in part.
In 1996, at 23 years old, Pinckney became the youngest African-American elected to the state’s legislature, and had been part of it ever since.
According to the church’s website, Pinckney started preaching at age 13 and was first appointed pastor at 18.
Mullen said the other victims will be publicly identified after their family members are notified.