Dylan Roof Faces Hate Crime Charges in Charleston Church Shooting

Dylan Roof, the accused killer of nine African-Americans in a Charleston, SC, church, is facing 33 federal indictments, including hate crime and church arson charges that could lead to the death penalty if he is convicted.

Roof was first indicted by a Charleston County grand jury on nine state counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder and a firearms charge. Federal charges filed against Roof include 12 violations of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and 12 violations of the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996. In addition, he is facing nine charges of illegally using a firearm to commit murder.

Following the June 17, 2015, shootings at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division pursued hate crime charges against Roof by sending FBI agents to investigate Roof’s motive in the shootings.

In the U.S., hate crimes are considered federal civil rights violations and are defined as illegal acts “motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” South Carolina does not have a hate crime law. Both state and federal cases against Roof will proceed in their respective court systems.

Investigators said that proof of hate crimes could be found in handwritten letters by Roof as well as a manifesto he allegedly posted on a website called lastrhodesian.net in which he described African-Americans as “stupid and violent” and referred to segregation as a “defensive measure” to “protect us from them.”

Roof’s online manifesto also stated, “I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

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