Police on Thursday arrested 21-year-old Dylann Roof of Lexington, South Carolina, after he conducted a horrific shooting attack on Wednesday that murdered nine people at an historic African-American church in Charleston.
Roof was arrested three hours away from the church near Shelby, North Carolina.
Law enforcement officials say witnesses revealed Roof took part in the weekly Bible study class at the church before suddenly standing up and saying he was there "to shoot black people," before lethally opening fire.
Earlier on Thursday police in Charleston revealed that church security cameras caught Roof on tape. At the time he was still at large, and police warned residents to be vigilant as he was armed and dangerous.
The shooting is being investigated as a hate crime, given that the target was the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal Church in the American South.
Images of the suspect showed him to be a clean-shaven white male in his early 20s, standing 5 feet 9 inches tall with sandy blond hair. He was wearing a gray sweatshirt, blue jeans and Timberland boots.
"He has on a very distinctive sweatshirt as well as the vehicle, with a very distinctive license plate," Charleston police chief Greg Mullen said Thursday. "He obviously is extremely dangerous."
Mullen added, "this is an all-hands-on-deck effort with the community as well as law enforcement. When people go out, they should be vigilant, they should be aware of their surroundings. And if they see anything suspicious, they should call law enforcement."
The suspect was at the church for an hour at a weekly Wednesday Bible study class with his eventual victims, before he suddenly opened fire on them according to Mullen as reported by CNN.
Three people survived the horrific shooting, Mullen said, with some reports indicating a child survived the attack by pretending to be dead.
One woman was spared by the shooter, who told her, "I'm not going to kill you, I'm going to spare you, so you can tell them what happened," Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott told CNN.
Mullen said, "this is a situation that is unacceptable in any society, and especially in our society and our city."
Eight church members died at the scene while a ninth died at a hospital. Among the victims are the church's pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
The church has been around since 1816, when African-American members of Charleston's Methodist Episcopal Church broke off to form their own community after a burial grounds dispute.