5-Year-Old Girl Survives Charleston Church Shooting by Playing Dead (UPDATE)

charleston emauel african methodist
A 5-year-old girl survived a gun attack at a Charleston, South Carolina, church by playing dead, according to ABCNews4 reporter Rob Mallia. Nine other individuals were not so fortunate. Last night a man police have identified as 21-year-old Dylann Roof entered the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church, stayed an hour through a Bible study, and then shot the attendees. Officials are investigating it as a hate crime.

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There were three survivors of the shooting that left nine others dead, six women and three men. The shooter reportedly told one of the survivors, a woman, that he was leaving her alive so she could tell what happened.

UPDATE: The alleged shooter is now in custody, a law enforcement official tells CNN. Authorities arrested Roof this morning in North Carolina thanks to a tip.

dylann roof

State Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was also a pastor of the church, is believed to be among the victims. He leaves a wife and two children. His cousin, Sylvia Johnson, told MSNBC that Roof told the people there, "I have to do it. You rape our women, and you're taking over our country, and you have to go."

At least one of the victims may have been a grandmother. Jon Quil Lance waited outside Medical University Hospital, after hearing his grandmother Ethel Lance had been shot at the church. "I'm lost, I'm lost," he told The Post and Courier. "Granny was the heart of the family." Names of the victims (aside from Senator Pinckney) have not yet been officially released.

You have to wonder if that 5-year-old girl's parents were killed at her side. She was so smart to play dead, and her survival is a small ray of hope in this otherwise horrific story. But what a trauma to live through, at such a young age. And if she lost a mother, a father, a grandmother? All the worse. 

Our hearts go out to this little girl and to all the family and loved ones of the victims at Emanuel AME church. This news makes me incredibly sad.


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Images via ABC News, Charleston Police Department

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