The US Justice Department is seeking capital punishment for a man accused of shooting nine African-American people in Charleston, South Carolina last year.
Federal prosecutors announced Tuesday they would seek capital punishment due to the “nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm.”
“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,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
In what seemed to be a racially motivated assault, Dylann Roof, 22, opened fire on participants of an evening Bible study class at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on June 17, 2015 with a 45-caliber Glock handgun. Three people survived the massacre.
In a separate seven-page filing in Federal District Court in Charleston, prosecutors said Roof had “expressed hatred and contempt towards African-Americans, as well as other groups, and his animosity towards African-Americans played a role in the murders charged in the indictment.”
According to the document, Roof also “demonstrated a lack of remorse” and “targeted men and women participating in a Bible study group at the Emanuel AME Church in order to magnify the societal impact.”
Despite the Tuesday’s decision, whether Roof should be executed has been and still is a matter of debate in South Carolina as some family members of the victims publicly forgave the gunman just two days after the shooting.
Roof now faces 33 federal charges, ranging from hate crimes to obstruction of religion and firearm offenses.
He is also facing a charge under a second hate crime law which forbids the use of force to prohibit the free exercise of religious belief.
Roof's state trial, in which he was charged with murder, will begin on January 17, following a judge decision to grant a delay requested by defense attorneys.
Following the shooting, authorities said that the white man left a racist manifesto on his website. The website, called “The Last Rhodesian,” was registered under Roof's name.
In his website, Roof vehemently denounced African Americans and appeared in photographs with guns and burning the US flag.