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Federal hate crime charges filed against Dylann Roof in Charleston church shooting

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Police in Charleston, South Carolina, responded to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church late Wednesday, June 17, 2015, following a shooting at the church. Nine people died when Dylann Roof opened fire in an apparent hate crime, police said.

CHARLESTON, South Carolina — Charleston church shooting defendant Dylann Roof faces federal hate crimes charges related to murder or attempted murder on the basis of race or color, and under a statute that protects a person’s free exercise of religious beliefs, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Wednesday. If he is found guilty, Roof faces life imprisonment or the death penalty. Lynch said there has been no decision yet on whether to seek the death penalty in his case.

“We think that this is exactly the type of case that the federal hate crimes statues were, in fact, conceived of to cover,” Lynch said. “Racially motivated violence such as this is the original domestic terrorism.”

A federal grand jury in South Carolina has returned a 33-count indictment against Roof, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Wednesday. Roof, 21, already faces a number of state charges in connection with the June 17 Bible study attack at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Nine people were killed, including the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who also was a state senator.

His state trial is scheduled to start July 11, 2016.

Roof was captured in North Carolina the day after the attack and was brought back to South Carolina. Law enforcement officials have said he admitted to the killings.