CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Republican Jeb Bush canceled a town hall-style political event planned for Thursday morning in South Carolina in light of a mass shooting inside a church Wednesday night that left nine people dead.
"Governor Bush’s thoughts and prayers are with the individuals and families affected by this tragedy," spokeswoman Allie Brandenburger said in a statement.
Charleston police received a call about the shooting at the Emanuel AME Church at 9:05 p.m. Wednesday. A manhunt for the suspect, described as a white man with sandy-blond hair and about 21 years old, continued into the wee hours Thursday. Police described the shooting as a hate crime.
Bush's event, part of a swing through three early-primary states following his 2016 presidential campaign launch Monday in Miami, had been scheduled for 10:15 a.m. Thursday at the Charleston Maritime Center, which is about half a mile from the church. Known as "Mother Emanuel," the historic black church at 110 Calhoun St. bills itself as one of the oldest and largest black congregations south of Baltimore.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton held a Wednesday afternoon event in nearby North Charleston, site of a deadly police-involved shooting in April.
"Heartbreaking news from Charleston - my thoughts and prayers are with you all," Clinton posted on Twitter after midnight Thursday.
A prayer circle gathered shortly after midnight about three blocks from the church.
"Where do we go from here?" asked the Rev. Thomas Ravenell of Empowerment Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, who led the prayer. "How do I look at heaven when hell is always on my back?"
Later, he added: "Jeb Bush, I don't care who it is -- you want my vote, you tell me how you're going to stop these shootings."
This post has been update.