The man responsible for murdering nine parishioners at a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina last June could face execution.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Tuesday that the Justice Department is now seeking the death penalty for 22-year-old Dylan Roof, ABC News reports.
“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,” Lynch stated. “The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision.”
Roof entered the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church on June 17, 2015 and opened fire on a group of church goers there for Bible study. Armed with ” a .45 caliber handgun and eight magazines loaded with hollow-point bullets,” the shooter fatally wounded nine worshipers, the news site states.
According to The New York Times, prosecutors submitted a separate seven-page filing to the District Court in Charleston, naming nine other factors that contributed to Roof’s indictment. The filing states that the Charleston shooter had “expressed hatred and contempt towards African-Americans, as well as other groups” and asserts that his hostility toward Blacks “played a role in the murders charged in the indictment,” the publication reports.
Per CNN.com, Roof also told investigators he wanted to start a race war.
A South Carolina federal grand jury indicted Roof on 33 counts of federal hate crimes and firearm charges, according to ABC News. He’s also accused of obstructing the practice of religion. No date for the federal trial has been set.
Roof faces state murder charges as well. The New York Times reports that both Gov. Nikki Haley and local prosecutor Scarlett A. Wilson called for the church shooter to be put to death.
Despite the Justice Department’s push for the death penalty, Roof’s execution is still up for debate. According to The New York Times, family and friends of the slain parishioners publicly forgave the accused gunman just days following the horrific shooting.
“You took something very precious away from me,” said Nadine Collier, whose 70-year old mother, Ethel Lance, was killed in the massacre. “I will never talk to her again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”
Felicia Sanders, the mother of Tywanza Sanders, also offered her forgiveness.
“You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know,” she said. “Every fiber in my body hurts, and I will never be the same. Tywanza Sanders is my son, but Tywanza was my hero…But as we say in Bible study, we enjoyed you. But may God have mercy on you.”
A date for Roof’s federal trial has not been set, The New York Times reports. His state court trial, however, is scheduled to begin January 2017.