Monday 5 December 2016

US prosecutors to seek death penalty for white man accused of killing nine black people in South Carolina church shooting

Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida

Published 24/05/2016 | 22:53

Dylann Roof appears via video before a judge in Charleston, S.C., on Friday, June 19, 2015. The 21-year-old accused of killing nine people inside a black church in Charleston made his first court appearance, with the relatives of all the victims making tearful statements. (Centralized Bond Hearing Court, of Charleston, S.C. via AP)
Dylann Roof appears via video before a judge in Charleston, S.C., on Friday, June 19, 2015. The 21-year-old accused of killing nine people inside a black church in Charleston made his first court appearance, with the relatives of all the victims making tearful statements. (Centralized Bond Hearing Court, of Charleston, S.C. via AP)

Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a white man accused of killing nine black parishioners at a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, last June, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.

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"The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

Dylann Roof, 22, is accused of opening fire on June 17, 2015, during a Bible study session at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

He faces 33 federal charges, including hate crimes, obstruction of religion and firearms offenses. Authorities have accused him of holding white supremacist views, saying he targeted the victims because of their race.

Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old man charged with murdering nine worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston last month REUTERS/Randall Hill
Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old man charged with murdering nine worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston last month REUTERS/Randall Hill

His federal trial had been delayed while U.S. prosecutors decided whether to seek the death penalty. Defense attorneys have said he would plead guilty if he did not face the possibility of execution.

He also faces the state death penalty if convicted of the shooting.

Dylann Roof (R), the 21-year-old man charged with murdering nine worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston last month REUTERS/Randall Hill
Dylann Roof (R), the 21-year-old man charged with murdering nine worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston last month REUTERS/Randall Hill

Roof's attorney, Michael O'Connell, declined to comment on the prosecution's decision when reached by phone on Tuesday.

Charleston, S.C., shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
Charleston, S.C., shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

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