Charleston shooting: Five-year-old child who 'played dead' among survivors in South Carolina

Family members say the child was in Emanuel AME Church at the time

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The Independent US

A five-year-old child survived the fatal mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina by pretending to be dead, it has been reported.

According to family members gathered at a hotel near the scene of the attack, which police are describing as a “hate crime”, the child was inside the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church when a gunman opened fire.

Read more: Charleston church shooting live

Family members, who had reportedly been briefed by police, told ABC News that the shooter entered the church and briefly joined in a prayer meeting at around 9pm local time on Wednesday night, before standing up and shooting.

Shaun King, reporting for Daily Kos on the scene, said the carnage in Charleston was “beyond description”. “Career officers are describing it as the worst thing they’ve ever seen,” he said.

Multiple sources, including a South Caroline state legislator, have reported that Emanuel AME’s pastor Reverend Clementa Pinckney is among the nine people killed in the incident, while a tenth person is being treated in hospital for gunshot wounds.

Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley said: "This is the most unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy.

“People in prayer, coming together, praying and worshipping God, to have an awful person come in and shoot them is inexplicable, obviously the most intolerable and unbelievable act possible.”