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The Latest on Charleston shooting: Memphis mayor wants Confederate statue, grave out of park

Last Updated Jun 24, 2015 at 11:15 pm EDT

Gov. Nikki Haley wipes her face as the body of Sen. Clementa Pinckney arrives at the South Carolina Statehouse, Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. Pinckney's open coffin was put on display under the dome where he served the state for nearly 20 years. Pinckney was one of those killed in a mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

10:30 p.m.

The mayor of Memphis, Tennessee, says he thinks a statue of Confederate General and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest should be removed from its location at a city park.

In a statement emailed to The Associated Press on Wednesday, Mayor A C Wharton Jr. said he would like to see the statue removed from Health Sciences Park. Wharton said the graves of Forrest and his wife, also located at the park, should be relocated as well.

Health Sciences Park was called Forrest Park until the City Council voted in February 2013 to change the name. It also changed the name of Confederate Park and Jefferson Davis Park.

It was not immediately clear if the City Council would consider moving the statue.

Lawmakers have already called for the removal of a bust of Forrest from an alcove in the state Senate chambers.

The suspect in last week’s shooting deaths of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, was seen in photos brandishing the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of hate.


9:45 p.m.

More than 150 people have joined hands and formed the shape of a heart in a Charleston, South Carolina, park to honour the victims of last week’s shooting at a historic black church.

Organizers called the event the Holy City Heart Project. People made the heart shape Wednesday night while a photographer used a drone to take an overhead picture. Afterward, the event included musicians and a drum circle.

Organizers said they wanted to spread a positive message a week after the fatal shooting of a pastor and eight parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.


9:30 p.m.

The National Park Service is calling on concessionaires to stop selling items with the Confederate flag following the fatal shooting of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis says the Confederate flag has a place in books, exhibits and reenactments — but clothing, stickers or other items that use the flag as a stand-alone feature should be removed from the stores. Books and other news media depicting the flag in its historical context may remain.

Jarvis made his request in a memo issued Wednesday evening that was obtained by The Associated Press.

The agency contracts with third parties to administer concessions at national parks. Park stores that carry the Confederate flag are generally found at Civil War battlefields or national historic sites.

—Associated Press Writer Kevin Freking in Washington contributed.


8:30 p.m.

Approximately 150 people of all races packed into the basement of a historic black church for a Bible study exactly one week after a pastor and eight parishioners were fatally shot during such a session.

Church spokeswoman Maxine Smith said workers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church puttied over bullet holes in the wall and floor and removed other traces of the attack before inviting the public back in Wednesday night.

One visual reminder of the massacre was a table overflowing with roses, lilies and other plants against which leaned a poster covered with expressions of sympathy.

And instead of a small round table like that used for last week’s Bible study, folding chairs were set up in neat rows and filled to capacity by people who came to pay their respects and hear words of comfort from interim pastor Norvel Goff.


8:15 p.m.

The only black member of Mississippi’s congressional delegation says his state’s flag should be removed from the House side of the U.S. Capitol and House office buildings because it depicts the Confederate battle flag.

Wednesday’s resolution by Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson said the flags should go to the Library of Congress. Mississippi lawmakers’ offices could keep displaying the flag.

The resolution says any state flag showing the Confederate battle emblem should be removed. Thompson said it would only affect Mississippi since no other state flag contains the Old South’s symbol.

Mississippi’s Republican senators, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, want their state to remove the Confederate insignia from its flag.

The suspect in last week’s shooting deaths of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, was seen in photos brandishing the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of hate.


7:30 p.m.

Officials estimate that 4,000 people visited South Carolina’s Capitol to pay their respects to the pastor of a historic black church in Charleston who was fatally shot along with eight parishioners.

The visitation with state Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s open casket under the Capitol dome was supposed to end at 5 p.m. Wednesday. But hundreds were still in line, so officials let them keep coming, finally closing the doors about an hour later.

During the entire five hours, Pinckney’s colleagues in the state Senate, both fellow Democrats and Republicans, stood by the coffin in shifts, meeting mourners as they walked past.

State Sen. Joel Lourie arranged it so that the 41-year-old Pinckney would never be alone in his last trip to the Statehouse after serving as a page, House member and senator.


7 p.m.

The acting leader of the historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, where a pastor and eight parishioners were fatally shot last week remarked to surviving members, “We will never be the same.”

Interim pastor Norvel Goff addressed a crowd of more than 100 people who packed into the church’s basement Wednesday night for the first weekly Bible study since the shootings took place there a week ago.

“Because of our faith we have shown up once more again to declare that Jesus lives and because he lives, we can face tomorrow,” he declared.

Several family members of shooting victim Myra Thompson joined the gathering to the applause of the crowd and with encouragement from Goff.

“It is a powerful testimony that they are able to come,” said Goff, walking between the aisles of the gathered.


5:20 p.m.

A federal law enforcement official says Justice Department officials are in agreement that last week’s massacre at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, satisfies the definition of a hate crime. That means that federal charges against suspect Dylann Storm Roof are likely.

The official spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the investigation is continuing. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has said federal authorities are investigating the shooting as a possible hate crime.

On Wednesday, Lynch remarked that hate crimes are “the original domestic terrorism.”

— Associated Press Writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed.


3:25 p.m.

The suspect in the shooting deaths of nine black members of a Charleston church has been appointed federal attorneys.

Federal court records show two federal public defenders were appointed Monday for 21-year-old Dylann Roof.

Roof currently doesn’t face any federal charges, but U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has said federal authorities are investigating the shooting as a possible hate crime. Roof is white. All of the victims were black.

In an online manifesto that the FBI is reviewing for possible links to Roof, he purportedly said he targeted the church because it was in his state’s most historic city. Some of his friends have said that he wanted to start a race war and do something “for the white race.”


3:05 p.m.

Both of Mississippi’s Republican U.S. senators say the state should remove a Confederate battle emblem from its flag.

Sen. Thad Cochran says state symbols should reflect “unity and not divisiveness.”

Cochran’s statement Wednesday came hours after fellow GOP Sen. Roger Wicker said the flag used since Reconstruction “should be put in a museum and replaced by one that is more unifying.”

As Old South symbols are reconsidered after deadly shootings at a South Carolina church, Mississippi’s top officials are divided about the last state flag featuring the Confederate X.

The Republican governor and lieutenant governor say the flag design was settled by a 2001 election.

The Republican state House speaker and the Democratic attorney general say Christianity should compel the state to change the flag to remove a symbol many find offensive.


2:20 p.m.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the government is reviewing the deadly church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, to determine whether any federal crimes were committed.

Lynch says an investigation is continuing and she can’t discuss specifics. But she says hate crimes were what she calls “the original domestic terrorism.”

Lynch’s comments came at the police academy in Birmingham, Alabama. She was in the state the same day the governor ordered Confederate flags removed from the state capitol grounds in Montgomery.

Lynch echoed President Barack Obama’s comments that such symbols belong in museums. But she skirted the question of whether removing Confederate flags can lead to a reduction in hate crimes.

Lynch became attorney general in April. She’s the first black woman to hold the position.


2:15 p.m.

Recordings of phone calls to the Shelby Police Department show that the haircut and a Confederate license plate helped confirm a motorist’s belief that the man wanted for the shooting deaths of nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, was behind the wheel.

On the recordings from June 18, a Kings Mountain, North Carolina, police officer tells police in nearby Shelby that a friend’s employee has seen the black Hyundai that she thinks belongs to the suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Roof.

The officer says he knows his call is strange, but the employee has seen a white man with a bowl haircut and a license plate on the front of the car that matches the description provided by police.

Shelby police arrested Roof without incident. He’s now charged with nine counts of murder.


1:25 p.m.

Relatives of the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., a minister who was killed in the massacre at “Mother Emanuel” church in Charleston, say they are glad to see South Carolina and other states moving to take down Confederate symbols as they make his funeral arrangements.

His granddaughter, Alana Simmons, says: “We appreciate the efforts of the state to remove the flag.”

Alana Simmons says the family is finalizing funeral arrangements for her grandfather and expected to announce them by the end of Wednesday.

Funerals for the other eight victims have been announced, starting with one Thursday and at least one each day through Monday.


12:55 p.m.

Four Confederate flags have been removed from the grounds of the Alabama Capitol at the order of Republican Gov. Robert Bentley.

They came down Wednesday. Bentley says he issued the order late Tuesday after ensuring he had the authority. He says it’s important to honour history but that it can be done without flying the flag on Capitol grounds.

Bentley calls the Confederate battle flag a distraction and compares it to the swastika.

He says: “Unfortunately, it’s like the swastika — some people have adopted that as part of their hate-filled groups.”

After the flags’ removal, two men identifying themselves as members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans arrived to protest. When a group of black men, including the chief of staff for an Alabama Democrat who planned to introduce a resolution calling for the flags’ removal, came to see that the flags had been removed, they spoke and shook hands with the flag supporters.

Calls to remove Confederate symbols reignited after the massacre of nine people at a black church in South Carolina last week. The white suspect posed in photos displaying Confederate flags.


12:30 p.m.

Representatives of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence brought several boxes holding about 10,000 messages of support from people around the country to the historic Charleston church were the pastor and eight parishioners were slain.

Dan Gross, the Brady Campaign president, said it had received messages from all 50 states. He gave brief remarks along with state Rep. Wendell Gilliard of Charleston and the state’s poet laureate Marjory Wentworth, who read a poem she’d written for the victims.

A note from Chicago says: “My heart breaks for your loss.”

One from Columbia, South Carolina, says: “With a heart filled with grief, I send you my love, hugs and sincerest sympathy.”

Throughout the morning, several dozen people were stopping by the front of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where people have placed bouquets, wreaths and other floral arrangements.


12:25 p.m.

St. Louis police are investigating after vandals targeted a century-old Confederate memorial, spray-painting the words “Black Lives Matter” on the statue.

Police were called just before 8 a.m. Wednesday after a resident saw the damage on the 32-foot statue in Forest Park. Workers were cleaning the memorial. No arrests have been made.

The Confederate flag and other Confederate symbols have come under renewed scrutiny in the week since a gunman killed nine at a black Charleston, South Carolina, church. A white man who has posed with the flag is charged.

In April, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay directed a staff member to consider the future of the memorial. A report is expected by summer’s end.

The phrase “Black Lives Matter” took root in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, in August, after 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr., who was black and unarmed, was killed by police officer Darren Wilson. Wilson was not criminally charged.


12:20 p.m.

Four former South Carolina governors issued a statement Wednesday applauding Gov. Nikki Haley’s call to remove the Confederate battle flag from Statehouse grounds.

The joint statement was signed by Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, Dick Riley, David Beasley and Jim Hodges.

It reads, “Last week’s tragic events at Mother Emanuel AME Church have reminded us of the important bond we share as South Carolina citizens. We should fly only the United States and South Carolina flags on our Statehouse grounds — flags that represent us all.”

Beasley lost his bid for re-election in 1998 after advocating for its removal. He was at the Statehouse on Tuesday to encourage his former colleagues to support Haley’s position.

He said he was startled by how many legislators have switched positions in a matter of days.

He says: “Twenty years ago, they differed with me on this issue.”

Hollings, who went on to be a U.S. senator from 1966 to 2004, was governor when the Confederate flag was hoisted on top of the Statehouse dome. He called for it to come down in 2000, when legislators passed the compromise that moved a smaller, square version to a Confederate monument out front.


12:10 p.m.

A horse-drawn caisson carrying the body of slain state Sen. Clementa Pinckney is arriving at the South Carolina Statehouse so that people can pay their respects to him.

The caisson passed directly by the Confederate flag on a pole on the Statehouse grounds.

Pinckney, who was also a pastor at the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was one of nine people killed in an attack at the church a week ago.

The caisson is flanked by two police cars with lights on.

About 100 people stood in line Wednesday along the side of the Statehouse near the Confederate flag.

Gloria Wingard, 66, of Columbia, had been there since 9:30 a.m.

“I’m here to honour him and the things that he’d done,” she said of Pinckney.


10:45 a.m.

A law enforcement official has confirmed to The Associated Press that investigators believe the suspect in the Charleston church massacre purchased the gun that was used in the crime at a store called Shooter’s Choice in West Columbia, South Carolina.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss by name the details of a pending investigation.

The officials says Dylann Roof purchased the weapon at the South Carolina store.

The store has an indoor firing range and offers concealed weapons classes. On Wednesday, a man behind the store’s counter said it doesn’t give out information about customers.

Roof is charged with nine counts of murder in the massacre.

— Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed.

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