Several news outlets are reporting Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who is charged in the killings of nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, has been hit with multiple indictments. The Washington Post said Roof was already facing nine murder charges, but today a grand jury added three attempted murder charges and one count of possession of a weapon during a violent crime to his indictment. Charleston County Prosecutor Scarlett A. Wilson said Roof is facing one charge for each person who survived the mass shooting. The Post also said Roof may face federal hate crimes charges.
On June 17, Roof, according to reports, walked into a Bible study group at Emanuel AME Church and was welcomed by churchgoers. After about an hour, Roof pulled a gun and began shooting while shouting racial slurs. According to reports, Roof carried out the attack in the attempt to spark a race war and because he feared Black people “were taking over the world” and “raping our women.”
Roof is a so-called “lone wolf” terrorist, who was radicalized after reading online information from white supremacists groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens. Before the attack, he had expressed racist views and talked of carrying out a mass shooting, even though none of his friends took him seriously. He was also pictured with a gun and the Confederate flag, which was featured on his license plate. Other pictures showed him wearing a jacket with patches of white-led countries such as apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe.)
Roof was captured less than 24 hours after the shooting by a tip from an eagle-eyed citizen. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the death penalty, but Wilson has not yet made a decision.
“Jack Swerling, a Columbia private criminal defense attorney, said Tuesday that Wilson will make her decision on whether to seek the death penalty on several factors, including community sentiment, whether the death penalty is appropriate and the wishes of the victims’ families,” according to the South Carolina paper The State.
The State also reported Roof has already secured legal representation. Boyd Young, an attorney who specializes in death penalty cases, filed paper saying he will serve as Roof’s defense attorney. However, mounting Roof’s defense is going to be an expensive affair.
“The cost of defending a death penalty case, which are usually far more complicated than regular cases, can ‘run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars,’ Swerling said,” reported The State.
Although Roof’s attack was allegedly supposed to ignite a race war, it had the opposite effect. It has actually caused a backlash against the Confederate flag and other pro-Confederacy monuments. Legislators in South Carolina and other Southern states are now rushing to distance themselves from the rebel battle flag.
“The shooting, and Roof’s fondness for the Confederate flag, sparked a push to remove a Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state Capitol,” reported USA Today. “The South Carolina Senate earlier Tuesday formally approved and sent to the House a bill removing the flag, where it has flown either atop the Capitol or on a nearby flagpole for 54 years.”
The shooting has also become an issue in the 2016 presidential race. While several GOP candidates were hesitant to label the massacre a racist attack, they are now strongly condemning Roof’s actions.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a frontrunner among the Republican candidates, initially said he didn’t know what motivated Roof’s attack. But he later condemned Roof, referring to him as “the racist in Charleston,” according to CBS News.