Richland County, SC (WLTX) - The suspect accused of shooting and killing nine people at an African-American church in Charleston has been arrested in Shelby, North Carolina.
A law enforcement source confirmed to News19 that Dylann Storm Roof, 21, was taken into custody around 11 a.m. in the town of about 20,000 residents that's about an hour drive to the west of Charlotte.
According to Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen, a citizen noticed a suspicious vehicle and called police in Shelby. An officer pulled him over a short time later, and he was taken into custody without incident.
Mullen said so far, Roof has been "cooperative." He added that a gun was found in the vehicle.
Charleston officers are flying to Shelby to interview him, and will begin the process to extradite him back to South Carolina for prosecution.
"That awful person, that terrible human being...is now in custody where he will always remain," said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley at a news conference shortly after the arrest. "In America, we don't let bad people like this get away with these dastardly deeds."
Earlier in day, there was a heavy police presence seen in lower Richland County, South Carolina because Roof grew up in the area and has family here.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin also told WLTX that Roof has multiple family members in the greater Columbia area.
A Facebook page belonging to a Dylann Roof that matches the picture released by law enforcement said Roof at one time attended White Knoll High School in Lexington County. In the Facebook photo, Roof is wearing a jacket with patches of the racist-era flags of South Africa and Rhodesia.
A criminal history report shows Roof was arrested in Lexington County on February 28 of this year on a controlled substance charge, and then again on April 26 on a trespassing offense. Neither of those cases had been adjudicated.
Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen says around 8 p.m. Wednesday, Roof entered the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church near downtown Charleston, where a Bible study was taking place. After spending an hour in the sanctuary, officers say he opened fire, killing nine people--six females, three males.
Three people survived.
Among the dead was the pastor of the church, 41-year-old Clementa Pinckney, who was also a South Carolina state senator. At the South Carolina State House Thursday, a black drape and a red rose were put over his desk.
Fighting back tears, Governor Nikki Haley said today was a "very sad" day in South Carolina, but called on the community to come together.
"We woke up today, and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken," she said. "We have some grieving to do, we have some explaining to do."
Flags in the state are flying at half-staff because of the tragedy. President Obama said he and Vice President Joe Biden called Charleston leaders to express their condolences. He also said he knew several members of the church, including Pinckney.
Mullen has called the killings a hate crime, and the Justice Department said its Civil Rights Division, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of South Carolina are opening their own hate crime investigation into the shooting.
Mullen said there is no evidence to suggest anyone else was involved.
"The only reason that someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is out of hate," Riley said. "It is the most dastardly act that one could possibly imagine, and we will bring that person to justice. ... This is one hateful person."
Prayer vigils are taking place all across South Carolina, including one in Charleston where state leaders, including Gov. Haley, were set to attend.
The Emanuel 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 worshipped underground until after the Civil War.