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9 dead in shooting at historic Charleston African American church. Police chief calls it `hate crime.'

Police are searching for a gunman who opened fire Wednesday night at a historic African American church in downtown Charleston, S.C. Charleston officials said nine people were killed and others were injured.

"I do believe this is a hate crime," Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said at a late night news conference, without explaining the basis for his conclusion.

Police said the victims had gathered Wednesday night in the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston for a prayer service when the shooting occurred. Police are now searching for the gunman, described as a clean-shaven white male in his early 20s, who has sandy blond hair and a small build. Police said he was wearing a gray sweatshirt, blue jeans and Timberland boots. He is believe to be the only shooter.

by das monde on Thu Jun 18th, 2015 at 03:45:29 AM EST

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