A South Carolina, United States (U.S.) Magistrate’s Court on Friday remanded in custody a suspect in the shootings of nine people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Chief Magistrate James Gosnell said he did not have authority to grant suspect, Dylann Roof, bail on the murder charges but set a bond of $1 million in a weapons charge.
Twenty-one-year-old Roof was charged with nine counts of murder in connection with an attack on a historic black South Carolina church.
Roof confessed to the attack and said he intended to set off new racial confrontations.
He sat with parishioners through an hour of Bible study before opening fire, and almost did not go through with the attack because he had been welcomed, NBC News reported, citing a law enforcement source.
Charleston Police spokesman, Charles Francis, declined to comment on the reports of a confession.
Roof was arrested on Thursday in North Carolina, 220 miles (354 km) north of the nearly 200-year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where he is alleged to have shot dead nine black worshippers on Wednesday in a Bible-study group.
U.S. officials are investigating the shootings, in which four ministers including a Democratic state senator died, as a hate crime. They were the latest in a year of turmoil in the United States where police killings of several unarmed black men have provoked an angry national debate about race relations, policing and the criminal justice system.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, a Democrat who is in his 40th year in office, said the attack would not divide the city of 128,000 people.
“A hateful person came to this community with a crazy idea he would be able to divide us and all he did was make us united and make us love each other even more,” Riley said.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley told NBC’s “Today” show she believed state prosecutors should pursue a death sentence.
“This is an absolute hate crime,” said Haley, a Republican. “We’ve been talking with the investigators …; they said they looked pure evil in the eye.”
South Carolina is one of five U.S. states that do not have a hate crime law, which typically imposes additional penalties on crimes committed because of a victim’s race, gender or sexual orientation.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday the attack stirred up “a dark part” of U.S. history and showed the continuing dangers of liberal gun laws, which gun-rights supporters say are protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“The elephant in the room is guns. South Carolina and the country have gone gun-crazy,” said state Representative Wendell Gilliard, a Democrat who represents Charleston.
“How many times do we need to come together? How many times do we need to unite?”
The church, known as “Mother Emanuel”, was founded in the early 19th century by black worshippers who were limited in how they could practise their faith at white-dominated churches. The church was rebuilt after being burned down in the late 1820s when one of its founders drafted plans for a slave revolt.
Compounding anger over the killings, the South Carolina capitol continues to fly the Confederate battle flag, the symbol of the pro-slavery South during the U.S. Civil War.
In addition to the church’s leader and Democratic state Senator Clementa Pinckney, 41, victims included pastors DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Sharonda Coleman Singleton, 45; and Reverend Daniel Simmons, 74.
Also killed were Cynthia Hurd, 54, a public library employee; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; Tywanza Sanders, 26; and Myra Thompson 59, an associate pastor at the church, according to the county coroner.
Area residents, including a group of nuns, filed past the church early Friday. Many tearfully offered prayers and left flowers near the yellow police tape behind which law enforcement agents were gathering evidence.
Social worker Jermaine Jenkins, 25, said he believed the outpouring of public grief and support showed that Roof had failed in his reported goal of sparking fresh racial unrest.
“I don’t think he will succeed in creating a race war,” said Jenkins, who is black.
Others expressed surprise that a man so young harbored such violent views.
“I grew up when racism was just a way of life,” said Mary Meynardie, 90, who is white. “I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was somebody 60, 70 years old who had that much hate, but where does this hate come from?”
*Culled from Reuters