A gunman remained at large early Thursday after nine people were shot and killed in Charleston, South Carolina, during a Bible study session at one of the nation's oldest African-American churches, authorities said.
"I do believe this was a hate crime," Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen said early Thursday near the scene at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
At a 6 a.m. ET press conference, investigators released an image of the suspect and said he had left the church in a black four-door sedan.
The suspect was described as slender white male aged 21 to 25, who was about about 5ft 9in tall with a bowl cut.
Police did not release the car's make but Mullen said it had a "very distinctive license plate."
Police are still searching fort the suspected shooter - a clean-shaven white male about 21 years of age.