The U.S. will seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof, the gunman charged in a shooting spree killing nine parishioners in a Charleston, SC church last year.
Roof, 22, is a charged with nine counts of murder and according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, penned a manifesto outlining racist views.
“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,”
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch stated on Tuesday, “The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision.”
State authorities have said they will also seek the death penalty.
Prosecutors for the federal government cited the planned and racially motivated nature of the killings as a reason to seek the death penalty.
Roof, they said, “demonstrated a lack of remorse,” and an “animosity towards African Americans.”
That three of the victims were between 70 and 87 also created the grounds to justify the death penalty.
Steve Schmutz, a lawyer representing family members of three of the victims, said federal officials informed relatives of the victims on Tuesday about the decision.
“Regardless of whether or not you’re for the death penalty, the thought process is this: where else would you have it, if not for here?” Steve Schmutz, lawyer representing three victims, said.
The attack took place nearly one year ago inside the Charleston church, known as the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and often called Mother Emanuel, was Founded in 1816. It is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the southern United States.
African Americans founded the church due to white-domination of other churches in the region, and increasing discrimination against blacks in Charleston.
The shooting took place amid increasing racial tensions in the U.S. not even a year after the shooting death of Michael Brown by a white police officer, which sparked protests and birthed the Black Lives Matter civil rights campaign.
Shortly after the Charleston Church shooting, a PBS NewsHour and Marist College’s Institute for Public Opinion survey found differences in how African Americans and whites view opportunities and attitudes in the U.S. today, highlighting increasing racial tensions.
Further, racial issues have been among the most discussed topics on Facebook in regards to the 2016 election.