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In Charleston, A City Gathers To Mourn, Try To Understand Mass Shooting

Mourners pass by a makeshift memorial on the sidewalk in front of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.
Stephen B. Morton
Mourners pass by a makeshift memorial on the sidewalk in front of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.
(This post was last updated at 11:24 a.m. ET.)

Just hours after police apprehended 21-year-old Dylann Roof in Shelby, N.C., authorities flew him back to Charleston, S.C., a city that was still trying to comprehend the crime Roof is accused of committing.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports that many residents stopped outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Thursday. They laid flowers at the foot of the grand Gothic Revival church originally built in 1891.

She reports:

"People gathered to take pictures, and some, like Carol Rawle struggling to hold back tears, crawled under yellow police tape stretched in front of the building to lay flowers on a growing memorial.

'From our garden We're neighbors,' she said. 'We live in the neighborhood, such an important landmark how could we not come.'

"Her husband, David Rawle, said everyone wanted to show their respect and how much they cared for those who died and for their families.

" 'This is such an aberrant incident that we just naturally come together and honor those that we've lost, they are good good people who are important parts of this community and they're our neighbors,' David said. 'We love them.' "

Meanwhile, Roof, who was seen smirking as North Carolina authorities led him to a waiting cruiser to begin his trip south, will be arraigned in a courtroom at 2 p.m. ET Friday.

The Charleston Police Department said Roof had been charged with "nine counts of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime."

As The (Charleston) Post and Courier reports, he is suspected of perpetrating what experts believe is the deadliest hate crime in South Carolina history.

The paper reports:

"While South Carolina has suffered a long history of racially motivated arson attacks at black churches, some as recently as the late 1990s, the state's last mass slaying of this scale occurred 139 years ago during the Reconstruction Era, Bass said.

"In July 1876, violence erupted in Hamburg, a small town across the Savannah River from Augusta. Following a confrontation between white farmers and the town's African-American militia, an armed mob of white men laid siege to the community. Five black men were summarily executed."

The city also announced plans for a prayer vigil at 6 p.m. Friday.

"This will be a prayer service and a vigil that will allows us to talk about and think about the tragic events," Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley said at a news conference.

Riley added that the service would also allow the families of the victims to "feel the love and feel the support and encouragement" of the city.

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Corrected: June 19, 2015 at 9:00 PM PDT
An earlier version of this story and the report it quoted from misidentified Carol and David Rawle. This has been corrected.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.