A prosecutor in Charleston, South Carolina, will seek the death penalty against Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine people during a prayer meeting at a historic African-American church, according to court documents filed Thursday. Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder.
Roof, 21, is accused of shooting participants at a June 17 Bible study class at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston.
Nine people died, including the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who also was a state senator in South Carolina.
Roof, a high school dropout not known for violence, was captured the next day in North Carolina. He confessed to the shootings in interviews with the Charleston police and FBI, two law enforcement officials told CNN. He also told investigators he wanted to start a race war, one of those officials said.
Roof faces murder charges in state court. That trial is scheduled to start July 11, 2016.
He is also charged with 33 federal offenses, including hate crime charges for allegedly targeting his victims on the basis of their race and religion. It isn’t clear yet when the federal trial would begin.
In the days after his arrest, relatives of the victim attended a court hearing and told Roof they forgave him.
“I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you,” a daughter of Ethel Lance said. “And have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.”