The Justice Department announced Tuesday it will seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof, who is accused of killing nine people during a Bible study class inside a historic black church last June in Charleston, South Carolina. "The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision," ABC News quotes a statement from Attorney General Loretta Lynch as saying. According to the Washington Post, prosecutors based their decision to pursue the death penalty on Roof's "lack of remorse," his desire to "magnify the societal impact" of the murders, and "his animosity toward African Americans." Authorities say Roof, 22, wanted to start a race war, CNN reports. He's facing 33 counts of federal hate crimes and gun charges.
The victims' families were informed of the Justice Department's decision during a conference call Tuesday. A lawyer representing three of the families says he believes they support that decision. “Regardless of whether or not you’re for the death penalty, the thought process is this: Where else would you have it, if not for here?” he tells the Post. State prosecutors were already pursuing the death penalty, having charged Roof with nine counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder for the deaths at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Roof's trial had been delayed in part due to the Justice Department's debate on whether or not to pursue the death penalty. The state trial is scheduled to begin in January. The federal trial has no start date at the moment.