This is so tragic and was within a very historic church in Charleston. Please pray for the victims and the families. 

A frantic manhunt was on in South Carolina, hours after a “horrible scoundrel” opened fire in an historic African-American church in downtown Charleston, killing nine, including the pastor and state senator during a regular prayer meeting.

Police immediately branded the shooting spree, which began just after 9 p.m. Wednesday, a hate crime, and released surveillance images of a white man fleeing the scene at 150-year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after the horrific incident.

“This is an unspeakable and unfathomable act by somebody filled with hate and a deranged mind,” Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley said in a Thursday morning press conference. He vowed that authorities were “committed to finding this horrible scoundrel.”

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A five-year-old girl reportedly survived the attack by following her grandmother’s instructions to play dead, and a woman was allowed to leave to “tell the world” what had happened. It was not immediately known what message she was supposed to convey.

Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said the gunman, described as clean-shaven and approximately 21 years old with sandy blonde hair and a slender build, was still at large. Police said the man was last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt with blue jeans and Timberland boots.

Gov. Nikki Haley released the following statement:

“Michael, Rena, Nalin and I are praying for the victims and families touched by tonight’s senseless tragedy at Emanuel AME Church. While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another. Please join us in lifting up the victims and their families with our love and prayers.”

Read more: FOX News

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