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Dylann Roof arrested in killing of 9 people in historic black church

WATCH ABOVE: Police say a gunman sat with the pastor of a Charleston, South Carolina church for an hour before opening fire on a prayer group and killing nine people. A 21-year-old man is now in custody after carrying out what police have called a hate crime against black parishioners. Jackson Proskow reports.

CHARLESTON, S.C.  –It was an act of “pure, pure concentrated evil,” Charleston’s mayor said — a black community’s leading lights extinguished by gunfire, allegedly at the hands of a young white man who sat among them through an hour of prayer.

In one blow, the gunman added nine victims at The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church to the ever-lengthening list of America’s racial casualties, and ripped out part of South Carolina’s civic heart.

They included a state senator who doubled as the church’s minister, three other pastors, a regional library manager, a high school coach and speech therapist, a government administrator, a college enrollment counselor and a recent college graduate — six women and three men who felt called to open their church to all.

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Police arrested Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old who had complained that “blacks were taking over the world” and that “someone needed to do something about it for the white race,” according to a friend who alerted the FBI.

Roof waived extradition and was put on a plane from North Carolina Thursday afternoon, authorities said.

READ MORE: Explaining the racist Rhodesia, South African apartheid flags Dylann Roof is seen wearing

President Barack Obama called the tragedy yet another example of damage wreaked on America by guns. NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks said “there is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people.” Others bemoaned the loss to a church that has served as a bastion of black power for 200 years, despite efforts by white supremacists to wipe it out.

“Of all cities, in Charleston, to have a horrible hateful person go into the church and kill people there to pray and worship with each other is something that is beyond any comprehension and is not explained,” said Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. “We are going to put our arms around that church and that church family.”

WATCH: “I’ve had to make statements like this too many times” – U.S. President Barack Obama says it’s time for Americans to confront issue of gun violence

Surveillance video showed the gunman entering the church Wednesday night, and Charleston County Coroner Rae Wilson said he initially didn’t appear threatening.

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“The suspect entered the group and was accepted by them, as they believed that he wanted to join them in this Bible study,” she said. Then, “he became very aggressive and violent.”

READ MORE: What we know about Charleston church shooting suspect Dylann Roof

Roof’s childhood friend, Joey Meek, called the FBI after recognizing him in the surveillance footage, down to the stained sweatshirt he wore while playing Xbox videogames in Meek’s home the morning of the attack.

“I didn’t THINK it was him. I KNEW it was him,” Meek told The Associated Press after being interviewed by investigators.

Roof was arrested without incident Thursday in Shelby, North Carolina, after a motorist spotted him and tipped police.

WATCH: Police and FBI explained the events leading up the arrest of Dylann Roof

His previous record includes a felony drug charge and a misdemeanor trespassing charge, but he wasn’t known to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama.

It’s not clear whether Roof had any connection to the 16 white supremacist organizations operating in South Carolina, but he appears to be a “disaffected white supremacist,” based on his Facebook page, said the center’s president, Richard Cohen.

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Meek said he and Roof had been best friends in middle school, where “he was just a quiet kid who flew under the radar.” Roof then disappeared and showed up again several weeks ago, seeming even more quiet and withdrawn.

READ MORE: What is the historical significance of the church at the centre of the Charleston shooting?

But on his Facebook page, Roof displayed the flags of defeated white-ruled regimes, posing with a Confederate flags plate on his car and wearing a jacket with stitched-on flag patches from apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, which is now black-led Zimbabwe.

And when Meek asked what was troubling Roof, “he started talking about race,” the friend said.

Spilling blood inside a black church — especially “Mother Emanuel,” founded in 1816 —evoked painful memories nationwide, a reminder that black churches so often have been the targets of racist violence.

A church founder, Denmark Vesey, was hanged after trying to organize a slave revolt in 1822, and white landowners burned the church in revenge, leaving parishioners to worship underground until after the Civil War. The congregation rebuilt and grew stronger, eventually winning campaigns for voting rights and political representation.

Its lead pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney — among the dead — recalled his church’s history in a 2013 sermon, saying “we don’t see ourselves as just a place where we come to worship, but as a beacon and as a bearer of the culture.”

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“What the church is all about,” Pinckney said, is the “freedom to be fully what God intends us to be and have equality in the sight of God. And sometimes you got to make noise to do that. Sometimes you may have to die like Denmark Vesey to do that.”

IN PHOTOS:

A passing motorist looks out her window as she stops at an intersection down the street from the Emanuel AME Church early Thursday, June 18, 2015 following a shooting Wednesday night in Charleston, S.C.
A passing motorist looks out her window as she stops at an intersection down the street from the Emanuel AME Church early Thursday, June 18, 2015 following a shooting Wednesday night in Charleston, S.C. AP Photo/David Goldman
Lisa Doctor joins a prayer circle early Thursday, June 18, 2015, down the street from the Emanuel AME Church following a shooting Wednesday night in Charleston, S.C.
Lisa Doctor joins a prayer circle early Thursday, June 18, 2015, down the street from the Emanuel AME Church following a shooting Wednesday night in Charleston, S.C. AP Photo/David Goldman
The steeple of Emanuel AME Church is visible as police close off a section of Calhoun Street early Thursday, June 18, 2015 following a shooting Wednesday night in Charleston, S.C.
The steeple of Emanuel AME Church is visible as police close off a section of Calhoun Street early Thursday, June 18, 2015 following a shooting Wednesday night in Charleston, S.C. AP Photo/David Goldman
Worshippers embrace following a group prayer across the street from the Emanuel AME Church following a shooting Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, S.C.
Worshippers embrace following a group prayer across the street from the Emanuel AME Church following a shooting Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. AP Photo/David Goldman
Images on a flier provided to media, Thursday, June 18, 2015, by the Charleston Police Department show surveillance footage of a suspect wanted in connection with a shooting Wednesday at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.
Images on a flier provided to media, Thursday, June 18, 2015, by the Charleston Police Department show surveillance footage of a suspect wanted in connection with a shooting Wednesday at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Courtesy of Charleston Police Department via AP
A man kneels across the street from where police gather outside the Emanuel AME Church following a shooting Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, S.C.
A man kneels across the street from where police gather outside the Emanuel AME Church following a shooting Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. Wade Spees/The Post And Courier via AP
Police talk to a man across the street from the scene of a shooting Wednesday.
Police talk to a man across the street from the scene of a shooting Wednesday. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Worshippers embrace following a group prayer across the street from the scene of a shooting Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, S.C.
Worshippers embrace following a group prayer across the street from the scene of a shooting Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A distraught man is comforted as a group of concerned people arrive inquiring about a shooting across the street at the Emanuel AME Church, Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, S.C.
A distraught man is comforted as a group of concerned people arrive inquiring about a shooting across the street at the Emanuel AME Church, Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
An armed police officer moves up Calhoun Street following a shooting in Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, June 17, 2015.
An armed police officer moves up Calhoun Street following a shooting in Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, June 17, 2015. (Wade Spees/The Post And Courier via AP)
Police stand outside the Emanuel AME Church following a shooting Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, S.C.
Police stand outside the Emanuel AME Church following a shooting Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Pinckney, 41, was a married father of two and a Democrat who spent 19 years in the South Carolina legislature after he was first elected at 23, becoming the youngest member of the House.

“He had a core not many of us have,” said Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who sat beside him in the Senate. “I think of the irony that the most gentle of the 46 of us — the best of the 46 of us in this chamber — is the one who lost his life.”

The other victims were Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; and the reverends DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Sharonda Singleton, 45; and Daniel Simmons Sr., 74.

WATCH: Charleston Police chief announces suspect in church shooting has been caught

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the attack would be investigated as a hate crime.

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Meek said his friend had become an avowed racist.

“He said he wanted segregation between whites and blacks. I said, ‘that’s not the way it should be.’ But he kept talking about it,” Meek said.

Obama, who personally knew the slain pastor, was one of the few politicians to call for stricter gun control.

“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times,” the president said. “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”

This shooting “should be a warning to us all that we do have a problem in our society,” said state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, a Democrat whose district includes the church. “There’s a race problem in our country. There’s a gun problem in our country. We need to act on them quickly.”

Flowers tied to a police barricade outside the church formed a growing memorial, two months after another memorial appeared at the scene in neighboring North Charleston where Walter Scott was shot in the back by a white police officer. That shooting of an unarmed black man prompted South Carolina to pass a law to equip police with body cameras statewide. Pinckney co-sponsored it.