By Sheryl Estrada
Dylann Roof. Photo from WABCvideo.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Wednesday in a press conference that Dylann Roof will face federal hate crime charges. These charges are in addition to state charges, including nine counts of murder and three attempted murders.
“Racially motivated crimes such as this is the original domestic terrorism,” Lynch said. “The parishioners had Bibles. Dylann Roof had his .45-caliber Glock pistol, and eight magazines loaded with hollow-point bullets.”
Roof is being indicted for the murderof nine Black members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. on June 17, including the pastor of the church State Senator Clementa Pinckney.
Lynch said Roof, age 21, faces a33-count indictment, including hate crimes, firearms violations and obstructing the practice of religion.
She named The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law giving federal authorities greater ability to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue. In this case, Lynch said South Carolina does not have a hate crime law.
The statue also makes it unlawful to willfully cause bodily injuryor attempting to do so with fire, firearm, or other dangerous weaponwhen 1) the crime was committed because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin of any person, or 2) the crime was committed because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person and the crime affected interstate or foreign commerce or occurred within federal special maritime and territorial jurisdiction.
Lynch said based on an investigation, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Divisionhas deduced Roof specifically targeted Blacks for death because of their race and planned to do so while they were in religious worship. She said Roof chose a historically Black church for its “significance to Charleston, South Carolina, and the nation.”
A month ago, a website registered in Roof’s name went public, which featured photos of him at Confederate heritage sites and an almost 2,500-word racist manifesto. The author of the manifesto also wrote, “I have never been the same since,” after finding the Council of Conservative Citizens, a White Nationalist group, website through a Google search. Survivors of the shooting in Charleston said he yelled racial slurs. Authorities have also stated that Roof said he wanted to start a race war.
Lynch said Roof faces penalties up to life in prison or the death penalty. Prosecutors have not said whether they will seek the death penalty.
Shenoted this indictment contains “allegations and is not evidence of the defendant’s guilt.”
Lynchsaid the survivors of the shooting and families of the victims were informed of the charges prior tothe press conference.