African-American US State Senator Clementa Pinckney has been reportedly shot dead in a church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
The 41-year-old state senator was pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Police said nine people were killed during a prayer ceremony in the church on Wednesday night.
Pinckney’s sister was also among the dead.
The suspect, who is a young white man, is still at large.
Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen said the incident is a hate crime.
Pinckney was first elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1997. He has served in the State Senate since 2000.
He was the youngest African-American elected to the legislature. He was first appointed to be a pastor at 18.
The slain senator was among those who protested against the police shooting death of unarmed black man Walter Scott.
White North Charleston police officer Michael Slager killed Scott in April, sparking racial tensions in the Charleston region.