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Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a white man accused of killing nine black parishioners at a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, last June, the US Justice Department said on Tuesday.
“The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
Dylann Roof, 22, is accused of opening fire on June 17, 2015, during a Bible study session at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
He faces 33 federal charges, including hate crimes, obstruction of religion and firearms offenses. Authorities have accused him of holding white supremacist views, saying he targeted the victims because of their race.
His federal trial had been delayed while U.S. prosecutors decided whether to seek the death penalty. Defence attorneys have said he would plead guilty if he did not face the possibility of execution.
He also faces the state death penalty if convicted of the shooting.
Roof’s attorney, Michael O’Connell, declined to comment on the prosecution’s decision when reached by phone on Tuesday.