WASHINGTON (RNS) — Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced federal hate crime charges today against the 21-year-old suspect in the July 17 Charleston church massacre, alleging that Dylann Roof sought to ignite racial tensions across the country by targeting Emanuel African American Methodist Episcopal Church because of its local and historical significance.
The 33-count indictment charges Roof with nine murders, three attempted murders and multiple firearms offenses as part of a long-planned assault in which Roof allegedly singled out victims “because of their race and in order to interfere with their exercise of their religion.”
Federal charges, which follow a murder indictment lodged by a South Carolina grand jury, carry the prospect of a death sentence. But Lynch said no decision had been made on whether to seek the death penalty.
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