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Gunman on the Loose After Church Massacre; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 18, 2015 - 10:00   ET



[10:00:37] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Several victims regarding that active shooter. Give me at least four medic units.

MAYOR JOSEPH RILEY JR. (D), CHARLESTON: The only reason someone could walk into church and shoot people praying is out of hate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You tell our people to go to work, do right, go to church. These people were in church. They were in church.

RILEY: We will bring that person to justice as soon as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are communities trying to live and survive. Why do we have to live like this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We stand in solidarity, but we also solicit your prayers for the family members who have lost loved ones here tonight.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. I'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

We begin with breaking news out of Charleston, South Carolina. A bible study at one of the nation's most historic African-American churches turns into a violent massacre. Now nine people are dead and a massive manhunt under way for the gunman. Police have just released these new photos of the man they believe opened fire around 9:00 p.m. Eastern last night at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Among the victims, the church's pastor, who you see here. Authorities are now calling on the public for help. They say the gunman is believed to be in his early 20s, about 5'9", he has sandy blond hair.

We're also learning chilling new details about that rampage including that there were young children inside the church. All this as the Department of Justice prepares to open a hate crimes investigation. Tell us right to CNN's Nick Valencia. He's on the ground in Charleston.

Tell us more, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. An active manhunt is under way for the suspect described as a white male 5'9" with a slender build, sandy blood hair. Police are looking for him actively right now throughout the city of Charleston. Also involved in this church, regional authorities, folks from Washington, D.C., as well as the FBI.

Now some new information just into us in the last couple of moments, I just got off the phone with the Charleston Police Department spokesman. As we've been reporting, police are investigating this as a hate crime.

I asked the spokesman for the Charleston Police Department, what has led them to this conclusion, why this is being investigated as a hate crime, and pointblank he told me that these victims were killed because they were black.

Now I spoke to Senator Larry Grooms about one of the victims that we've positively identified as State Senator Clementa Pinckney who is described as the giant among men, a pillar in this community. He's also a pastor at this historic Emanuel AME Church where the shooting took place last night. Grooms talked to me about his friend and his colleague, a man that he referred to as his brother.


LARRY GROOMS, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE SENATOR: He was my colleague. He was a senator. He was a friend, but he's also my brother in Christ. Senator Pinckney was a good man. He loved his state, he loved his nation, he loved his wife, and he loved his church, but above all he loved his god, and we are a nation founded on godly principles. Senator Pinckney knew that, he understood that, he lived his life that way.


VALENCIA: More details, Carol, about exactly who was inside this bible study session at the time of the shooting. We know according to Senator Grooms that 13 people, including the shooter, were in that room, and even more chilling, if you can believe this, according to police at a press conference, this gunman sat with parishioners for an hour before he carried out his massacre, his assault. The first call coming into the police department at about 9:05.

Again, we want to reiterate that the police department needs your help. So if we could put that image up on the screen of the suspect, they are actively looking for this individual. Any and all tips are welcome.

This has shaken this community and this historic downtown district of Charleston at one of the most historic churches not just here, but all across the country -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And, Nick, I'm kind of curious about something. Police released a picture of this suspect's car. They said he had a distinctive license plate? Why aren't they releasing what that license plate actually looks like because you can't really tell in this picture. VALENCIA: I mentioned that I just got off the phone with the

Charleston Police Department press information officer, and I just asked him about that. I said if you're asking for the public's help, why not release these details? You say it's a distinctive license plate, also say that he's wearing a distinctive hooded sweatshirt. He said right now they don't want to go into those details but that is part of their investigation.

[10:05:05] They were not quite clear, Carol, to be honest why they're not releasing that information. Also, it's been reported that there were some words exchanged between the shooter and those in the bible study group. No word on exactly what was exchanged, but make no mistake about it, police believe that this was a hate crime and these parishioners were killed because they were African-American -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So there's this intense manhunt going on. Are police going door-to-door, are they searching for this guy's car? What's happening with that?

VALENCIA: Interestingly enough, around us it seems that the most chaos here is because of the media. We really haven't seen an active patrol or police presence. Our photographer has been here all throughout the evening as well as CNN political reporter Ashley Kellogg. She was here as well saying that they didn't really see much in police presence or something to indicate that there is a massive manhunt under way throughout the city but at a press conference police telling us that there is, indeed, an intensive look, a wide net being cast here in the city of Charleston and beyond.

They want to find this individual, and they believe that they will do that. It's just a matter of time according to the police -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I know because they have police and federal agents coming in from all over the country to help.

Nick Valencia, thanks so much. We'll get back to you when you get new information. I appreciate that.

As I've said, we're learning that the Department of Justice will open an investigation into this church. Our justice reporter Evan Perez has that part of the story.

Good morning.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. The Justice Department says that it's opening a civil rights investigation into this shooting at the Emanuel Church, and what is at work here is the Office of the Attorney General viewed what was being said by the police down there in Charleston, South Carolina, and immediately saw that there was a need to respond to what apparently the suspect said when he entered this church, which was his intent to kill these people either because of their race or because of their religion.

So now we have the FBI, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department here, and the attorney -- the U.S. attorney for South Carolina doing this investigation. Now this is going to be separate and parallel to what the local authorities and state authorities are doing down there. What this also means is there's going to be more resources. We're told that the FBI, the ATF, the marshals are all sending down resources to try to hunt this suspect and find him as soon as possible -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Evan Perez reporting live from Washington. Thanks so much.

Among the nine victims is the pastor of the Emanuel AME Church Clementa Pinckney. You heard Nick mentioned him. Those who knew Pinckney describe him as a family man. Spreading the word of the bible was not his only job, it was his passion. At the center of his message, peace.

And when I say this man was on a mission to serve the public, I mean that. Not only was Pinckney a pastor, but he was a state lawmaker, too. He recently backed a bill to make body cameras mandatory for all police officers in South Carolina in light of Walter Scott's death. Remember Scott was shot in the back by a North Charleston police officer as he fled a traffic stop.


CLEMENTA PINCKNEY, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE SENATOR: We need a better, more comprehensive and fair tax system. But most importantly, every person in South Carolina needs to know that they will have equal protection under the law and that a badge and a gun does not give someone superiority or will trump their constitutionally protected privileges and rights here in South Carolina.


COSTELLO: Pastor Pinckney was just 40 years old. He leaves behind a wife and children.

Joining me now on the phone is Reverend John Richard Bryant, he's the senior bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Welcome, sir.


COSTELLO: Thank you for being with me. You just landed in Charleston for a meeting and a vigil with all of the AME leaders. Tell me about that.

BRYANT: We -- the bishop of this district, Bishop Richard Nars, has called for prayer amongst the believers all across the state of South Carolina, and this morning we're meeting at Morris Brown Church in Charleston to collectively go to God in prayer at a time of horrific suffering.

COSTELLO: Reverend, since this terrible thing happened in a house of God as people were praying, there are so many questions from so many people this morning as to, you know, why such things happen. BRYANT: Well, I realize and was thinking in my meditation this

morning that this is not only tragedy for Emanuel and not only tragedy for the AME church in Charleston, but it is tragedy for the nation. We are watching an increase of senseless violence in the country, and it's alarming.

[10:10:09] And all persons of conscience and all persons of peace must be aware of it, conscious of it, and stand against it, and it seems as if we're escalating, and when persons can go into the very house of God and struck people while they are worshipping God, that's a very sad day in the country, not just for AME but for all of our citizens of this nation.

COSTELLO: Thank you, sir, for being with me this morning. I appreciate it. Bishop John Richard Bryant.

I'll be back in just a minute, but as we head to break, here is State Senator Clementa Pinckney's Senate seat. As you can see it's draped in black this morning with flowers.


[10:15:44] COSTELLO: All right. An intense manhunt now under way in Charleston, South Carolina, after a terrible shooting last night around 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time at the Emanuel AME Church. Nine people shot, six women and three men, and this is just a horrible detail. New details are coming out all the time but according to the Charleston NAACP president, one woman inside that church was allowed to live so she could describe what the gunman did. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over a dozen times last night it was said that this victim who was not shot but was there, her life was spared because the shooter said, I am not going to shoot you or I am not -- I'm going to let you go because I want you to be able to tell them what happened.


COSTELLO: Unbelievable.

Joining me now to talk about this and more, former ATF agent Matthew Horace. He's also the senior vice president of FJC Security Service. And former FBI agent Jonathan Gilliam.

Thanks to both of you for being with me. I appreciate it.

So, first off, Matthew, what do you make of that, that the gunman allowed someone to live so she could tell the tale?

MATTHEW HORACE, FORMER ATF AGENT: That was all about control. We've seen that in the past and we've seen it again this time, but you never can tell what people are going to do in these situations. But several things come to mind about this case. Number one, he's a male. Most of the active shooter incidents in the United States have involved males. Number two, he was a lone wolf. Most of the incidents involved lone people, not two or three or four.

And as long as we have that picture and that vehicle, as long as law enforcement can identify the inspection sticker, what's on the front of that vehicle, and narrow this case down and determine where that vehicle came from and who owns it, and you better believe that even with this somewhat disguised, someone knows who this is.

COSTELLO: See, you're saying someone disguised. We do have like close-up photos of these police pictures and I want -- Scottie, if you can put one up on the screen. So Jonathan and I were trying to figure out what this guy has on his nose if anything.

So, Jonathan, you've been able to study for about a half hour now. Can you figure it out?

JONATHAN GILLIAM, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE: Well, again, it could be the light, but I mean, I don't know. I was thinking of a breathe right. Why somebody would wear one of those, I don't know, but it's potential that that could be something that he has on his nose to help his breathing. I mean, I don't know. It's hard for me to really tell but again these cameras do strange things.

I think the biggest thing in that picture, though, is this hair. That is not a normal haircut, and you combine that with this car. If there's anybody out there that knows a guy with this haircut and that car, those are two very easy identifiable marks of this particular person.

COSTELLO: So you don't think it might be a wig?

GILLIAM: I mean, it could be. That's not a -- that's not a haircut you see every day. Hopefully it's not a wig and that's really this guy's hair, but I think -- and the other thing as we were just talking, I'm not really sure why they're not releasing more of this information with the license plate. My take on having been in law enforcement for the period of time that I was is that the more you give the public, the more eyes you have out there searching for things, and, you know, typically a regular patrolman or an aware citizen are the people who normally catch these people and find them.

COSTELLO: Yes. And, Matthew, this is sort of a nondescript car. So why wouldn't they release the license plate number especially when they say it's distinctive?

HORACE: Well, I think now what you have even in these seamless command situations, you've got the FBI, the ATF, state and local officers, there are a lot of people involved, there's always a concern about compromising the investigation. And you best believe it's been 10 hours, 11 hours now, there have been a lot of leads that have come in and state, local, and federal officers are following all those leads as we sit here right now about the car, about the person.

They're running down what type of gun was used, how many guns were used, what type of ammunition was found at the scene. And remember, this is still a very active crime scene. COSTELLO: So you think they've already -- well, of course, they can

run the license plate number, right? And they don't need any more information. I mean --

HORACE: It's not just --

COSTELLO: People driving on the road looking --

HORACE: It's not just as simple as running a license plate number.


HORACE: What we do is we look at the type of vehicle that we have. We run the state registries and determine literally how many cars in the state have that license tag, and in this case they would go -- also go to the contiguous states, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee. How many vehicles are like that. You run it down. There may be a thousand, then how many are close to Charleston? How many are recently sold or bought? The same way you run down the gun information as well.

[10:20:03] COSTELLO: So, Jonathan, I'm going to ask my director Scottie to put up another picture of the suspect. His full body shot, if you could, Scottie. Because you had a theory that thing hanging down below his shirt -- tell us again your theory.

GILLIAM: So my theory is I think if you look at this, and there are some clear, very clear picture of this, it could potentially be body armor. Body armor has a tail that hangs down in the front like this, and also I see his shirt is kind of dragging on something. When you take body armor out of its carrier, it's actually very thin. It's like about a half inch thick so it could definitely fit under that.

The other thing is, he's wearing a long sleeve shirt. And anybody that's from the south this time of the year, that is just stifling to wear a long-sleeved shirt.

COSTELLO: Yes. The real feel in Charleston at this moment is 105 degrees.


COSTELLO: Even at 9:00 p.m. it would still be hot in Charleston.

HORACE: Well, you know -- well, you know, Carol, several things come to mind also. In law enforcement we work with prevention and response in terms of active shooters. In the security space, prevention, awareness, and response. A part of that awareness is recognizing your surroundings. He is an odd duck no matter where he is in Charleston, South Carolina, in June. So, you know --

COSTELLO: The really tragic thing is, he walks into a church which is a welcoming place.

HORACE: Absolutely.

COSTELLO: They don't throw people out.

HORACE: We don't judge, we don't throw people out.

GILLIAM: But let me just say this, the American public needs to realize that we live in a day and age where let's go to church. You know, I'm a Christian, let's go to church, let's pray, let's have our meetings, but you have to be aware at all times. You have to look for these things. Do we know this guy? Has he ever been here before?

Look, it's not about judging somebody. It's about being aware of your surroundings and what is normal and what's not.

HORACE: Carol, if you could believe this, just yesterday I was drawing up a curriculum for an active shooter course I'm going to teach next week. And we were going through these exact same things. Be aware of your surroundings, know who's around you, kind of pay attention. This is a horrible, horrible situation but, as Joe said, he looks like he has a vest on, a vest, a long sleeve shirt, jeans.

COSTELLO: I don't know.

GILLIAM: And also this is what you -- this is a real -- when we use the term lone wolf to describe terrorists, I like to use the term homegrown operative. This is a lone wolf. This is somebody who stands on their own, comes up with their own ideology and goes out and acts on this. What we look at typically with terrorists are people who are homegrown operatives. They subscribe to an ideology and then they kind of act in -- with this different -- or with this ideology that may be overseas but this definitely is what you would term a lone wolf.

COSTELLO: I got to leave it there. Thanks to both of you.

GILLIAM: You got it.

COSTELLO: I appreciate it. I'll be right back.


[10:27:36] COSTELLO: All right. A manhunt continues in Charleston, South Carolina, for a man who went into the Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, and sat there and watched a bible study group pray for an hour and then he stood up and opened fire. Nine people are dead this morning.

And we are getting new information and this is from a law enforcement source who said witnesses told him that the gunman, before he opened fire, said, I'm here to kill black people.

Nick Valencia is on the ground in South Carolina. He's continuing to investigate this. When he gets more information about this I'll let you know. But, again, before that gunman opened fire, he did say something to his intended victims, I'm here to kill black people, and that's why, indeed, police are investigating this as a hate crime.

I want to bring in now Jason Jonathan. He worked on Clementa Pinckney's campaign back in the '90s and Reverend Craig Robinson, he's the pastor of the Bethel African-American Methodist Episcopal Church. Of course that state senator victim in that shooting rampage.

And, Jason, I want to start with you because he was such an amazing man. You worked on his campaign for state senator. He was only, what, 23 years old at the time?

JASON JONATHAN, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, HIRAM COLLEGE: Yes, yes. I mean, Clem was just a couple of years older than me. It was the first campaign that I had ever run, and he was the hometown boy made good. All he cared about was serving his community and serving God and speaking for everybody. He had a heart and a soul and a love for South Carolina and his community that is unmatched, and I've worked with a lot of campaigns.

And I cannot personally express how painful this is. This isn't just political. This is personal. This is an absolute tragedy.

COSTELLO: Reverend Robinson, this -- the information that we just got into CNN, that before the gunman opened fire he said, I'm here to kill black people, it's just -- I don't even know how to ask you the question or phrase it correctly, sir.

REV. CRAIG ROBINSON, PASTOR, BETHEL AFRICAN-AMERICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH: Well, it's a tragedy, and it is something that's so unfathomable that it's understandable you can't formulate a question. And when you think about the many instances even within his last year of violence against black bodies and, like, institutions, it's heart- wrenching and it's truly unthinkable.

COSTELLO: All right. I'm getting more information in --