Hoping to quell concerns over the fatal shooting of nine congregants in South Carolina, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck reassured church leaders that officers would stand with them and provide additional security.
Speaking to a group of congregants with the Ministerial Alliance of L.A. African Methodist Episcopal Church, Beck said Thursday at Ward AME that he was saddened and shocked by the fatal shootings.
"This is an attack on the cornerstone of American culture and the American people," he said.
The department, he said, will do what it can to ensure all faith-based organizations are protected.
"We have a huge concern from AME right now because there is so much unknown," he said.
Beck urged church leaders to stand in solidarity with police, showing strength in how they interact with one another and react to the tragedy.
Nine people, including a pastor, were killed Wednesday night by a gunman, identified by authorities as Dylann Storm Roof, 21, at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church, founded as an all-black church nearly 200 years ago.
The congregants had been meeting for a Bible study session. The shooting is being investigated as a hate crime.
Rev. William D. Smart Jr., co-pastor of the Christ Liberation Ministries in Los Angeles, says the deadly incident proves that racism still exists in America and that there is a lot of work to be done.
"This shows that there is a race war going on in America," he said. "We still can eradicate injustice in American and racism."
The South Carolina shooting was a direct attack on the core values of the black community, he said.
"The black church is our soul," he said. "Our soul was attacked last night."
Church bells at congregations throughout Los Angeles rang at noon in solidarity and in memory of the lives lost Wednesday night, organizers said.