Updates To South Carolina Church Shooting That Left Several People Dead

Officials provided an update to the shooting at a South Carolina church that left at least nine people dead and others injured. The shooting, which happened at around 9 p.m. ET Wednesday, took place at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest and largest black churches in the country. Officials did not hesitate to say they believed this was a hate crime. Update: Update: Police confirmed Thursday that six women and three men were killed in the shooting. Three people also survived. Officials released surveillance photos of the suspect entering the church and the vehicle he was driving, posted below.

Police Chief Gregg Mullen told reporters that the first call came in at 9:05 p.m. ET. Officers found eight deceased victims inside the church. Two people were transferred to a nearby medical center, where one died. Police said there were others who were injured but would not disclose their identities or say how many survived.

The shooting suspect is still at large, and officials are asking for the community's help in locating the gunman, who is currently believed to be the lone attacker. He has been described as a 21-year-old, slender and clean-shaven white man with sandy blonde hair. He was last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt or hoodie and blue jeans. A white man who matched the suspect's description was detained, but eventually cleared and released. That man was later identified as a photographer.

The Emanuel AME Church has a predominantly black congregation. Mullen said he believed this was a hate crime.

This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience. It is senseless. It is unfathomable that somebody in today's society would walk into a church when people are having a prayer meeting and take their lives. And I can assure you that we are going to do everything in our power to find this individual, lock him up, and to make sure he does not hut anybody else.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said he had spoken with the victims' families and described the gunman as a "hateful person."

The only reason why someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is out of hate. The only reason.

Officials will be offering a reward for information leading to the suspect, though the exact amount won't be determined until Thursday, Mullen said.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush was scheduled to appear in South Carolina Thursday morning for a number of campaign events. They have since been canceled "due to the tragic events unfolding in South Carolina tonight," a spokeswoman told the Washington Post.

Governor Bush’s thoughts and prayers are with the individuals and families affected by this tragedy.

Image: Charleston Police Department