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(Photo credit: WCSC)
(Photo credit: WCSC)

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Nine people were killed in a shooting at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, according to the Charleston police chief.

The shooter was still at large as of 1 a.m. Thursday.

The shooting took place Wednesday evening at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. On its website, the church describes itself as the “oldest AME church in the south.”

“I do believe this is a hate crime,” Police Chief Greg Mullen said at a press conference.

“It’s really bad. It’s a very bad scene,” local pastor Thomas Dixon said.

“Apparently the person just entered the church and opened fire. That part has not been fully articulated on what happened yet … they are still looking for the suspect.”

Police said the suspect in the shooting is a clean-shaven white man in his 20s, with a slender build. He was wearing a grey sweatshirt, blue jeans and boots.

Soon afterward, news cameras showed officers taking a man matching that description into custody — but police said they were still looking for the shooter.

The department asked anyone with information about the shooting to call 911 dispatchers

Every Wednesday evening, the church holds a Bible study in its basement.

Corey Wessenger, who was standing across the street from the church, said the area was swarming with a heavy law enforcement presence.

“I just saw a group of about 40 people escorted by cops,” Wessenger told CNN by phone.