US prosecutors to seek death penalty for Charleston church shooter

The US Department of Justice says it will seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof, the white man accused of killing nine black parishioners in a shooting rampage at a historic church in Charleston last June.
Dylann Roof is escorted by police in a June 18, 2015, file photo.
Dylann Roof is escorted by police in a June 18, 2015, file photo.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US prosecutors will seek the death penalty for the gunman suspected of killing nine black churchgoers in South Carolina last year, Attorney-General Loretta Lynch announced on Tuesday.

Dylann Roof, 22, allegedly joined an evening Bible study class at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, then shot participants with a .45-caliber Glock handgun. Three people survived the shooting.

Roof was arrested in North Carolina a day after the shooting.

A website attributed to him was later found to contain racist views toward African Americans, as well as photographs of Roof brandishing guns and the US South’s historic Confederate battle flag.

He has been indicted for the killings in both state and federal court.

“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 said in a statement.

“The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision.” It is not yet clear when the federal trial will begin.

Lynch’s state trial, in which he will also face the death penalty, is set to begin on January 17, after a judge granted a delay requested by defence attorneys.

In July of last year, Roof entered pleas of not guilty to federal hate crime charges.