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during a traffic stop, Charleston police Chief Greg Mullen said Thursday morning. He said local police were acting on a BOLO (be on the lookout) notice that included a vehicle description, the license tag and the suspect name.

Roof was armed with a gun when he was arrested, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. It not clear if it the same firearm he allegedly used in the shooting.

A senior law enforcement source told CNN the suspect father had recently bought him a .45 caliber gun for his 21st birthday.

The slayings took place Wednesday night inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, near the heart of Charleston tourist district. The man spent an hour in a prayer meeting before he opened fire, Mullen said Thursday morning.

A law enforcement official says witnesses told them the gunman stood up and said he was there shoot black people. 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.

Six females and three males were killed, Mullen said. Three people survived, including a woman who received a chilling message from the shooter.

life was spared, and (she was) told, not going to kill you, I going to spare you, so you can tell them what happened, Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott told CNN. Scott said she heard this from the victims family members.

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 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 spokesmen after the slaying of an unarmed man by a North Charleston police officer 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.

don 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 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,
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banned by the state. But its church members persevered, making it the largest African American church in terms of seating space in Charleston today.

Mullen said video cameras at the church showed a suspect is in his early 20s, standing 5 feet, 9 inches tall. Police said he may be driving a black Hyundai with vehicle tag LGF330.

Police described the gunman as clean shaven with a slender build and sandy blond hair. He was wearing a gray sweatshirt, bluejeans and Timberland boots.

On Thursday morning, police handed out images of the man and his car taken from surveillance footage and asked for the public help in identifying him.

in prayer Wednesday evening. A ritual, a coming together, praying, worshiping God. An awful person to come in and shoot them is inexplicable, Mayor Riley said.

The killing put the nation spotlight once again on the Charleston region. Several months ago, Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, was fatally shot in the back by a North Charleston police officer, a killing that was captured on video.

Pinckney backed a bill to make body cameras mandatory for all police officers in South Carolina.

cameras help to record what happens. It may not be the golden ticket, the golden egg, the end all fix all, but it helps to paint a picture of what happens during a police stop, Pinckney said in April.

Riley, who seen Charleston go through ups and downs during his 40 years as mayor, said the city must immediately start the healing process. A community prayer meeting will be held Friday at the College of Charleston, not far from the church, he said.

are going to put our arms around that church and that church family. the shooting, church and community members converged on the area to pray in the street, often while holding hands.

Dot Scott, the NAACP leader, said family and friends of the victims gathered at the Embassy Suites motel near the church after the shooting. The city set up a victims assistance center there.

were at least 50 or more people there, she said. were families of the victims, grandchildren,
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council members and a bunch of people there. said that where she heard about the shooter sparing the woman in the church.