Charleston, SC saw tragedy when 21 year old Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church to join the regular bible study and killed nine people within the hour. Witnesses say the young white man, not part of the congregation, came in around 8:15 p.m. and sat down quietly. He stayed for 40 to 50 minutes as the session continued.

Suddenly, the young man rose, uttered remarks that betrayed his contempt for blacks and opened fire with a gun. Police say Roof shot and killed nine people inside the historic church, near the heart of Charleston’s tourist district. Eight died at the scene; a ninth died at a hospital.

Among the dead were six women and three men, including the church’s politically active pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney who served as the state senator. The other victims, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton and Myra Thompson died at the scene of the shooting while Daniel Simmons died at the hospital.

One of the surviors, Felecia Sanders had played dead as she lay on top of her granddaughter to protect her during the shooting. Another survivor, a trustee of the church, said Roof told her he would let her live so that she could tell others what had happened.

The shooter did little to conceal his identity and less than 13 hours after the shooting; Dylan Roof would be in police custody. He said his actions were intended to start a race war. He was arrested 240 miles from the scene of the shooting after tips poured in and a woman recognized him at a stop light.

Hours after his arrest, friends of the shooter talked to the press about Roof’s conversations with them about starting a race war and wanting segregation among whites and blacks. No one thought he would ever go through with it though they recalled him talking about such an attack as long as six months ago.

Relatives of the victims offered forgiveness to Dylan Roof during his first court appearance on Friday. While the Charleston community and the nation are still reeling from the evil attack on innocent church-goers-many wonder if there was any way to prevent this. Gun control advocates have jumped on this latest shooting to support their cause yet the question of whether that would be enough still plagues the nation.

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