A white gunman is currently on the run after brutally shoot at least nine worshippers on Thursday in a historic black church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The US police address this crime as a hate crime.

The Church members had gathered for a prayer meeting in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday evening when the shooter walked in. He spent about one hour in the service with them before he started loading his gun six times. One of the survivor and a member of the church said that the pastor and some of the members of the church tried to talk to him, telling him not to shoot but the gunman replied in this words: “you killed our people and rape our women, and now you want to take over”  and opened fire, the survivor said.

At this point, we have nine victims in this hideous crime that has been committed. Among the dead was the church’s pastor Clementa Pinckney, who was also a South Carolina state senator, the Charleston Post and Courier reported, citing church members, friends and political colleagues.

Police said, the suspect was a clean-shaven white man in his early 20s. As of 5:00 am Thursday (0900 GMT), he remained at large and officers swarmed the city with the help of helicopters and tracking dogs to try to find him.

This incident once again brings to the fore broad racial tensions that persist in many US communities, more than five decades after the Civil Rights Act was enacted to outlaw racial and other forms of discrimination. High-profile police killings of unarmed black men have prompted riots, as well as much soul-searching and national debate in recent months as America grapples with its troubled racial past.

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In April, in the neighboring city of North Charleston, a white police officer was charged after a video surfaced of him fatally shooting a fleeing black man, 50-year-old Walter Scott, in the back. But Curley said the neighborhood’s residents typically get along fine. “Generally, there’s not a great deal of racial tension,” he said.

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