The Justice Department announced today that it will be seeking the death penalty in the upcoming case against Dylann Roof, the accused Charleston Church shooter.
Dylann Roof is accused of gunning down nine people at a historically African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina late last year. Roof allegedly entered a bible study class at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and opened fire killing nine people, including a state senator. Roof has been charged with thirty-three separate federal crimes, including hate crime charges.
“Following the department’s rigorous review process to thoroughly consider all relevant factual and legal issues, I have determined that the Justice Department will seek the death penalty. The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch
Roof himself claimed that the shooting was racially motivated, and he intended to “start a race war” by opening fire in the historic Charleston church. Prior to the shooting last July, Dylann Roof had not been known for violence, the 22-year-old high school dropout had no prior criminal record.
Roof faces additional charges at the state level, where the South Carolina prosecutors will similarly seek the death penalty against the alleged Charleston Church shooter. The severity of the alleged crimes inspired a tough response from the Justice Department and from the local authorities, NBC News reports. Though Roof faces death penalty charges in both state and federal court, NBC News speculates that Roof will likely be tried first at the local level before federal authorities decide whether or not to seek another – federal –trial against the alleged Charleston Church shooter.
“Dylann Storm Roof has expressed hatred and contempt toward African Americans, as well as other groups, and his animosity toward African Americans played a role in the murders,” read a statement from federal prosecutors.
Roof allegedly entered the church armed with a.45 caliber handgun and eight magazines loaded with hollow point bullets. According to Politico, Roof reloaded the gun five times during his alleged shooting spree, shooting each of the nine parishioners multiple times.
“This type of crime in particular, racially motivated violence is of grave importance to the federal government. This is, in fact, the archetype of the original domestic terrorism,” said Loretta Lynch at a press conference last year.
Dylann Roof entered the church on a Wednesday evening, settling in at one of the tables with African-American parishioners attending the mid-week bible study class. Roof is pictured in a Snapchat video from one of the victims, sitting calmly at a table with a small group. According to witness reports, Roof sat at the table for an hour, sitting through most of the bible study class before drawing his gun and opening fire.
“My cousin, being the nice, kind welcoming person he is, he welcomed [Dylann Roof] to his congregation, welcomed him to the bible study and he sat there for an hour,” said Sylvia Johnson, one of the victims’ cousins.
According to Johnson, someone pleaded for Roof to stop shooting, begging him for mercy.
“No, you’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country. I have to do what I have to do,” Roof replied, according to Johnson.
Reportedly, once Roof stopped firing, he approached one of the survivors and asked her if he’d shot her yet. She said no, and Roof allegedly replied, “Good. Because we need a survivor, I’m going to kill myself.”
Roof entered a plea of not guilty earlier this year. To date, there is no federal trial date for Dylann Roof, but the state-level trial against him is scheduled to start in January of next year, as the Inquisitr reported previously.
[Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]