A federal grand jury has now indicted confessed Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof on 33 new counts, including hate crime charges, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Wednesday.
“We think that this is exactly the type of case that the federal hate crimes statutes were conceived of to cover,” Lynch told reporters during a briefing. “Racially motivated violence such as this is the original domestic terrorism.”
Roof already faces 13 murder and attempted murder charges from Charleston County authorities. He is being held without bond and has a tentative trial date of July 2016.
The 33 new counts mostly add on a hate crimes element to the existing accusations against Roof. He faces nine charges of a hate crime resulting in death, three more hate crimes with intent to kill, twelve counts of obstructing the exercise of religion (9 resulting in death, 3 attempted murder), and nine counts of using a firearm to commit murder in relation to a violent crime.
“An essential element of his plan was to find his victims inside of a church — specifically an African-American church — to ensure the greatest notoriety and attention to his actions,” Lynch said in explaining why hate crimes statutes would apply. South Carolina does not have a hate crimes law on its books, meaning only federal prosecutors could charge Roof from that angle.
Lynch said the Justice Department will determine at a later date if it wishes to seek the death penalty against Roof.
The FBI announced earlier this month that a faulty background check allowed Roof to illegally purchase the Glock handgun shortly after turning 21. FBI director James B. Comey said Roof should not have passed the check due to previously admitting drug possession to a Columbia police officer. However, the wrong arresting agency was mistakenly entered, so the FBI examiner doing the check could not find information about Roof’s arrest in February.