United in faith and death

The pas­tor and eight oth­ers were bound by the sanc­tu­ary where they were gunned down while pray­ing.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kur­tis Lee, Chris­tine Mai-Duc and James Queally kur­tis.lee@latimes.com james.queally@latimes.com chris­tine.mai-duc@latimes.com Times staff writer Matthew Hamil­ton con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Killed in the church that brought them to­gether, the vic­tims are re­mem­bered for good works.

It was a weekly meet­ing at the his­toric black church on Charleston’s Cal­houn Street. Moth­ers, fathers, sis­ters and broth­ers hud­dled in­side Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church on a hu­mid Wed­nes­day night for Bi­ble study, led by Pas­tor Cle­menta C. Pinck­ney.

But the place of wor­ship, nor­mally a sanc­tu­ary for the suf­fer­ing, turned into a killing zone when an as­sailant opened fire on the black parish­ioners in South Carolina’s sec­ond-largest city, killing Pinck­ney and eight oth­ers. The sus­pect has been iden­ti­fied as Dy­lann Storm Roof.

“We’re hurt­ing, hurt­ing. You see good peo­ple gunned down like dogs in a racist, hate­ful act of vi­o­lence. It’s hurt. That’s all I can say we’re feel­ing,” said House Mi­nor­ity Leader J. Todd Rutherford, who served with Pinck­ney in the South Carolina Leg­is­la­ture. “You never think it’s go­ing to hap­pen to your state or your com­mu­nity, un­til it ac­tu­ally does.”

For Charleston’s black com­mu­nity, Pinck­ney’s death hit hard. The man known as “Clem” was not only a strong voice lo­cally, but held sway in the state­house where the Demo­crat with the boom­ing voice has served in the Se­nate since 2001. Four years ear­lier, when he won a seat in the House at age 23, he be­came the youngest African Amer­i­can elected to the Leg­is­la­ture.

“Sen. Pinck­ney was an icon in Charleston and an icon in Columbia,” the state cap­i­tal, said Rep. Peter McCoy of Charleston. “He’s a guy that I’ve al­ways looked to, al­ways looked up to, in terms of al­ways be­ing morally sound and loved by his com­mu­nity.”

In homage, his seat in­side the Se­nate cham­ber was draped by a black cloth. Pinck­ney was 41.

On Thurs­day, with a city in shock and a na­tion in mourn­ing, an out­pour­ing of tributes by rel­a­tives and friends was of­fered to many of the vic­tims, six women and three men, rang­ing in age from 26 to 87, with this church as their bond.

Sharonda Sin­gle­ton, 45, was on the min­is­te­rial staff at Emanuel AME Church, which might as well have been her sec­ond home. In ad­di­tion to her work at the church, she was a speech pathol­o­gist and track coach at a lo­cal high school. Her son, Chris, is a sopho­more who plays base­ball at Charleston South­ern Univer­sity. “Chris’ mother was just that par­ent that as a coach you are proud to have as part of your pro­gram. What she brought to our team is im­mea­sur­able,” said Stu­art Lake, the univer­sity’s head base­ball coach.

Myra Thompson, 59, was a fig­ure in Charleston’s black church com­mu­nity, where her hus­band, An­thony, is a rev­erend at Holy Trin­ity Re­formed Epis­co­pal Church. Daniel L. Sim­mons Sr., 74, was also a mem­ber of Emanuel’s min­is­te­rial staff. He died at the hos­pi­tal, coro­ner’s of­fi­cials said. Also killed was Ethel Lance, 70.

Cyn­thia Hurd, 54, worked as a li­brary man­ager in the Charleston County Li­brary sys­tem and was a mem­ber of the church.

DePayne Mid­dle­ton-Doc­tor, 49, was re­tired but had been a long­time chil­dren’s ad­vo­cate, serv­ing as di­rec­tor of the Charleston County com­mu­nity block grant pro­gram.

Both Mid­dle­ton-Doc­tor and Hurd were re­mem­bered Thurs­day as self less indi- vid­u­als who worked to bet­ter the com­mu­nity. J. El­liott Sum­mey, chair­man of the Charleston County Coun­cil, said he was hav­ing a dif­fi­cult time com­pre­hend­ing the idea that both women died in a city where they catered to chil­dren and to peo­ple liv­ing be­low the poverty line.

“All she wanted to do was go to church,” Sum­mey said of Hurd. “I don’t un­der­stand our so­ci­ety. There is a rea­son we call it a sanc­tu­ary.” Of Mid­dle­ton-Doc­tor, he said she had a “good heart and a good soul.”

Ty­wanza San­ders, the youngest vic­tim at 26, was a long­time parish­ioner at Emanuel, said his friend Tory Shaw. San­ders’ par­ents were deeply in­volved in the church, Shaw said, and it was fam­ily ties that drew him to the church, where he regularly at­tended Bi­ble study with his aunt, Susie Jack­son, who at 87 was the old­est vic­tim.

Fam­ily mem­bers, Shaw said, had been told that, amid the hail of bul­lets, San­ders des­per­ately tried to shield his aunt. “I can’t sleep,” said Shaw, who spent the night mak­ing fran­tic calls to find out whether his friend sur­vived the at­tack. “It’s like a bad night­mare.”

It was Pinck­ney who peo­ple couldn’t stop talk­ing about Thurs­day, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Obama, who ac­knowl­edged the loss in a news con­fer­ence.

In South Carolina, the grief ran deep.

Dick Har­pootlian, a for­mer state Demo­cratic Party chair­man, re­mem­bered Pinck­ney as a “pas­sion­ate and tire­less ad­vo­cate for his con­stituents.”

“The man was just hon­estly gen­uine. A gen­uine man,” Har­pootlian said.

That came through in April, days af­ter the shoot­ing of Wal­ter Scott, an un­armed black man killed by a white North Charleston, S.C., po­lice of­fi­cer.

Re­cently Pinck­ney stood be­fore tele­vi­sion cam­eras and, in elo­quence, called for leg­is­la­tion man­dat­ing all South Carolina po­lice of­fi­cers wear body cam­eras. And it was Pinck­ney who spoke about Scott’s death be­fore fel­low sen­a­tors at the Capi­tol in Columbia last month.

His words then res­onated Thurs­day: “We were able to see the gun­shots and we saw him fall to the ground ... to see him die face down on the ground as if he were gunned down like game. I be­lieve, as a leg­is­la­tor, as a state, we have the op­por­tu­nity to al­low sun­shine into this process to al­low us new eyes into see­ing.”

The leg­is­la­tion, which Pinck­ney and other mem­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture’s black cau­cus called their No. 1 pri­or­ity, was passed on June 10. He saw it as a great vic­tory.

Yet ev­ery­one knew he loved his other job maybe even more.

“He was com­fort­able at the Capi­tol, but at church he was re­ally at home,” Rutherford said.

Tim Brown, a mem­ber of the church since 1989, said Pinck­ney threaded themes through his ser­mons that were al­ways pointed and rel­e­vant to what was go­ing on in the com­mu­nity.

When asked how the church would move for­ward, Brown was at a loss.

“I don’t know. I hon­estly do not know,” he said.

‘I don’t un­der­stand our so­ci­ety. There is a rea­son we call it a sanc­tu­ary.’

— J. El­liott Sum­mey, chair­man of the Charleston County Coun­cil

Grace Beahm Post and Courier

THE REV. Cle­menta C. Pinck­ney, shown in 2010, was a state sen­a­tor and pas­tor of Emanuel AME Church, where he was among those killed at a prayer meet­ing.

David Gold­man As­so­ci­ated Press

A MOURNER lays a sym­pa­thy card at a makeshift me­mo­rial near the Charleston, S.C., church. “We’re hurt­ing, hurt­ing,” a state law­maker said.

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