WASHINGTON (AP) - The Justice Department intends to seek the death penalty against Dylann Roof, the man charged with killing nine black parishioners last year in a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch made the announcement Tuesday.
In a brief statement, Lynch said: "The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision."
She also said the department had considered "all relevant factual and legal issues."
Roof is awaiting trial on federal hate crime charges in connection with the June 17 shooting at Emanuel AME Church, which contributed to a national conversation about race relations and also led to the removal of a Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Statehouse.
Roof is also charged with nine counts of murder in state court, and South Carolina prosecutors have already announced plans to seek the death penalty when he stands trial next year.
Malcolm Graham, brother of Cynthia Graham Hurd, one of the Emanuel Nine, issued the following statement:
"This was a crime of hate. There’s no room in our society for hate, racism and discrimination. Racism is America’s Achilles’ heel and we must work tirelessly to eradicate it. It starts with how we teach our children and how we lead by example, putting kindness above all else. It starts in places in our community like libraries and churches – the places my sister Cynthia felt most at home. I believe the man who killed my sister and eight other innocent people – after being welcomed into their prayer circle – should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. I support U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s decision to seek the death penalty for the perpetrator of this most heinous crime."