A federal indictment charged that Dylann Roof targeted 12 black people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last month, including three survivors, and prevented them from freely exercising their religion, reports the Post and Courier in Charleston. The 33-count indictment, which legal scholars called unprecedented in modern U.S. history, laid the groundwork for federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty. “Several months prior to the tragic events, Roof conceived his goal of increasing racial tensions and seeking retribution for perceived wrongs that he believed African-Americans have committed against white people,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “To carry out these twin goals of fanning racial flames and exacting revenge, Roof further decided to seek out and murder African-Americans because of their race. … Racially motivated violence such as this is the original domesticated terrorism.”
How federal and state prosecutors would coordinate the prosecution in two different court venues was not certain. Roof was indicted earlier this month by a Charleston County grand jury on nine counts of murder, three of attempted murder and a firearms charge. Attorneys in state court also have handled it as a potential death penalty case. Lynch said input from the victims' families — whose expressions of forgiveness after the tragedy, she said, served as an “incredible lesson and message for all of us” — would play prominently into that decision.