President Obama Just Gave a Powerful Statement About the Charleston Massacre

June 18th 2015

Authorities confirmed Thursday morning that Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old suspect in last night's Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting, was apprehended during a traffic stop in Shelby, North Carolina, about 250 miles from Charleston. He was captured in his car and was cooperative with the officer who stopped him, according to Charleston police chief Greg Mullen, who spoke at a press conference Thursday alongside local and state officials. 

"I can confirm that there is a suspect in custody," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Thursday, according to the Associated Press. 

"Acts like this one have no place in our country and no place in a civilized society," Lynch said in a separate news conference.

In remarks delivered at a special press conference Thursday, President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden standing at his side, decried what he called "senseless murders" at the Emmanuel AME.

"To say our thoughts and prayers are with [the victims] and their families and their community, doesn't say enough to convey the heartache, and the sadness, and the anger that we feel," Obama said, adding that there is something "particularly heartbreaking about a shooting in a place of worship where people seek solace and peace."

Obama remarked that the Emmanuel church is more than a place of worship, but a symbol of African-American resistance and strength, calling it a refuge founded by "African-Americans seeking liberty."

"This is an church that was burned to the ground because its worshipers worked to end slavery. When there were laws banning all black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret. When there was a nonviolent movement to bring our country closer in line with our highest ideals, some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church's steps. This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston, and in the history of America," he said.

On gun violence.

The President said he could not fully discuss the details of the case since they were still emerging, but he spoke openly about the emotional toll the shooting reaped and how it fit into a broader category of racially-tinged violence. "I've had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times," he said. "[W]e do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun," calling for both mourning and healing, and a national coming-to-terms with what he described as a unique problem America faces, among other developed nations. 

"Let's be clear. At some point we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency," he said.

On race.

"The fact that this happened in a black church also raises questions about dark parts of our history," he observed, adding that racial and religious hatred pose a "particular threat to our democracy and our ideals," before invoking the sentiments of Dr. Martin Luther King. "[W]e must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream, and if one will hold on, he will discover that god walks with him, and that god is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair, into the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace." 

Mother Emmanuel church, Obama said, would rise up again as a place of peace.

In South Carolina.

Obama's speech was preceded by remarks by South Carolina officials, including Charleston's mayor and the state's governor. 

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, speaking Thursday, said that he would be creating a Mother Emmanuel Hope Fund, which he invited those interested to donate to in order to help the community rebuild itself in the wake of the shootings. "In America, we don't let bad people like this get away with these dastardly deeds," he said. 

Riley was followed by SC Governor Nikki Haley, who said "[w]e woke up today and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken...We allow ourselves to grieve, we allow ourselves to pray, we allow ourselves to question and then we allow ourselves to heal," she said. 

The various press conferences and remarks by officials came as, and shortly after police arrested Roof in Shelby after a citizen alerted law enforcement to "suspicious activity," according to Mullen, concluding a tense and highly publicized manhunt after a shooting Wednesday night in which nine people were killed. Details emerged Thursday morning about Roof, whom Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called a "sheep in wolf's clothing." 

The 21-year-old carried a previous felony drug conviction, and a misdemeanor, but no other charges, according to reports


The Highly Disturbing Irony in This Charleston Cover Story

Twitter Reacts To Media Coverage of Charleston Shooting

Share your opinion

Do you consider the Charleston shooting an act of terrorism?

No 10%Yes 90%