The man suspected of killing nine people Wednesday night at an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, was arrested Thursday morning about three hours away near Shelby, North Carolina, law enforcement authorities said.
Investigators identified the suspect as Dylann Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina.
The man spent an hour in a prayer meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday night before he opened fire, Charleston police Chief Greg Mullen said Thursday morning.
A law enforcement official says witnesses told them the suspect stood up and said he was there "to shoot black people."
Police were searching for information about Roof. A picture of him on social media showed him wearing a jacket with what appear to be the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and nearby Rhodesia, a former British colony that was ruled by a white minority until it became independent in 1980 and changed its name to Zimbabwe.
Federal authorities have opened a hate crime investigation into the shooting at the oldest AME church in the South, the Department of Justice said.
"The only reason someone would walk into a church and shoot people that were praying is hate," Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said.
Among the victims was the church's politically active pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, his cousin, South Carolina state Sen. Kent Williams, told CNN.
Pinckney was also a state senator and one of the black community's spokesmen after the slaying of an unarmed man by a North Charleston police officer earlier this year.
There were 13 people inside the church when the shooting happened -- the shooter, the nine people who were killed and three survivors, South Carolina state Sen. Larry Grooms, who was briefed by law enforcement, told CNN. Two of the survivors were not harmed, he said.
It was not clear if the man targeted any individual.
"We don't know if anybody was targeted other than the church itself," Mullen said.
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has been a presence in Charleston since 1816, when African-American members of Charleston's Methodist Episcopal Church formed their own congregation after a dispute over burial grounds.
It was burned to the ground at one point, but rebuilt. Throughout its history, it overcame obstacle after obstacle -- destroyed by an earthquake, banned by the state. But its church members persevered, making it the largest African-American church in terms of seating space in Charleston today.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this difficult time.
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