Pastor killed in Charleston church shooting was a prominent state senator

Clementa PinckneyRandall HillRev. Clementa Pinckney, hugs a church member after the Watch Night service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

A state senator is among nine shot during a bible service at a South Carolina church.

On Wednesday, 21-year-old Dylan Storm Roof allegedly opened fire on a bible study at Emanuel AME Church, killing nine people including State Senator Clementa Pinckney, a pastor who was leading the service.

As The New York Times notes, Pinckney began his career as a lawmaker early. He was first elected to the South Carolina state house at 23, and won a Senate seat at 27.

State legislators mourned the death of their longtime colleague.

“I and all of my colleagues in the Senate are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Senator Pinckney,” Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler said, according to WCSC. “He was a talented and well-respected Senator who represented the people of his church, his community and his state with great character and a servant’s heart.”

On Thursday, Picnckney’s seat in the legislature was draped with a black cloth.

Following the shooting, the FBI announced that it was opening an investigation into whether the shooting was a hate crime.

Reuters reports that Roof’s uncle identified the suspected shooter based on a picture. Roof received a .45-calibre pistol from his father as a birthday present in April, the uncle said.

Charleston shootingRandall HillFlowers for the victims of Wednesday’s shootings, are laid near a police barricade in Charleston, South Carolina.

Before the shooting, Roof allegedly asked for the pastor, then sat in the service for an hour before opening fire.

Speaking with NBC News, Pinckney’s cousin said that the shooter reloaded at least five times.

Police are still searching for Roof.

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