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The Justice Department on Tuesday announced federal prosecutors would seek the death penalty against Dylann Roof, the suspect in the Charleston, South Carolina church attack that left nine parishioners dead last summer.
Roof, a self-proclaimed White supremacist, is accused of fatally shooting the victims at the historically Black Emanuel AME Church. The racially motivated attack left the church’s pastor – Rev. Clementa Pinckney – dead, along with eight other members of the church.
Five others escaped the attack without life-threatening injuries.
From The Post and Courier:
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement that she arrived at the decision after a “rigourous” of the case’s factual and legal issues. “The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision,” she said.
In the federal notice Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson wrote that Roof’s actions met the legal threshold for the death penalty because he intended to kill the people he shot: Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders Daniel Simmons Sr. and Myra Thompson.
The prosecutor also listed nine aggravating factors, including: multiple deaths, extensive premeditation, the targeting of people more than 70 years old, an intent to incite violence by others, the deaths’ impact on the victims’ loved ones, endangering the safety of people besides those who were slain, racial motivation and a lack of remorse.
Out of the 33 federal charges against Roof, the accusation that he violated the prayer group’s right to freely practice religion will weigh heavy when considering the death penalty.