The United States Justice Department will seek the death penalty against Dylann Roof, who is suspected in the deadly June attack at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch issued the following statement Tuesday evening:
“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.”
Roof pleaded not guilty to 33 federal charges last year. He was captured in North Carolina the day after the June 17, 2015 attack and was brought back to South Carolina. Law enforcement officials have said he admitted to the killings.
South Carolina authorities have provided an image on Twitter of Roof wearing a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, a former British colony where a white minority ruled until 1980 and whose name was changed to Zimbabwe.
Roof also had a website called “The Last Rhodesian” that included a long, hate-filled racist manifesto. The site included photos of Roof burning an American flag, taking aim with a pistol and posing proudly at places connected to the Confederacy.
The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a former state senator who was the church pastor, was among those killed.
South Carolina does not have a hate crime law.