9 people are confirmed dead, including State Senator Clementa Pinckney

,after a white gunman opened fire inside one of Charleston’s oldest and most well known black churches tonight.

Mayor Joe Riley exclaimed, “this is an unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy in this most historic church, an evil and hateful person took the lives of citizens who had come to worship and pray together.”

As The Post and Courier reports, a bomb threat complicated the investigation and prompted police to ask nearby residents to evacuate. The shooter is still at large…

Police and emergency vehicles swarmed several blocks surrounding Henrietta and Calhoun streets, just east of Marion Square. Barricades blocked off several streets to traffic, and police asked nearby residents to leave their homes.

The shooting occurred around 9 p.m. inside Emanuel AME Church at 110 Calhoun St. Police were seen exiting the 19th century church, and their presence extended blocks beyond the site.

Police were still looking for the gunman late Wednesday, and helicopters are hovering above. Police spokesman Charles Francis described the suspect as a 21-year-old white male in a gray sweatshirt/hoodie and jeans with Timberland boots. He has a slender build.

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As The NY Times reports,

Around 10:45 p.m., police officers at the scene drew their weapons and later escorted a man in handcuffs, who appeared to match that description.

But officials said later that they were still searching for the gunman.

*  *  *

In a latest update, AP reports,

Charleston police say nine people have been killed in a shooting at a historic black church in what authorities intend to investigate as a hate crime.

Police Chief Greg Mullen says eight people were found dead Wednesday at Emanuel AME Church and another person died later at the hospital.

Mullen says a prayer meeting was going on at the church at the time of the shooting.

The shooter, described as a white male, was not yet in custody.

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