President Obama expressed “deep sorrow” this afternoon over the deadly shooting at a historic predominantly black church in Charleston.
“Any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy,” the president said at the White House. “There is something particularly heart breaking about a death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.”
The president acknowledged the frustration he feels over the frequency in which mass shootings occur in the United States.
“I don’t need to be constrained about the emotions that tragedies like this raise. I’ve had to make statements like this too many times,” he said. “We don’t have all the facts but we do know that once again innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting a gun.”
The president said he and First Lady Michelle Obama personally knew Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of those killed in the church massacre.
“To say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families and community doesn’t say enough to communicate the heartache, sadness and anger that we feel,” he said. “Mother Emmanuel is in fact more than a church. This was a place of worship founded by African-Americans seeking liberty.”
Vice President Joe Biden, fighting back tears, stood alongside the president as he spoke.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have called members of the Charleston, South Carolina community in the wake of the shooting.
The FBI identified 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof as the suspected gunman that opened fire inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church Wednesday night, taking the life of nine people — three women and six men.
In a news conference earlier, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced a suspect was in custody.
“Acts like this one have no place in our country and no place in a civilized society,” Lynch said. “The individual who committed these acts will be found and will face justice.”
Roof was arrested at a traffic stop in Shelby, North Carolina.
Officials have called the act a “hate crime,” and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI have launched a hate crime investigation. It was the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. since 12 people were killed at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. in September 2013.