June 24, 2015
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department will likely file federal hate crime charges against the man suspected of carrying out a massacre at a storied black church in South Carolina, federal law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
Dylann Roof, 21, already faces nine counts of murder and could receive the death penalty in state court. But there is widespread agreement among officials at the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation that the shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston was so horrific and racially motivated that the federal government was obligated to address it, law enforcement officials said.
F.B.I. analysts have also concluded “with a high degree of certainty” that Mr. Roof posted a racist manifesto online, which could be a key to any federal charges, a law enforcement official said. The website was registered in February under Mr. Roof’s name, but the name was made anonymous the following day.
In cases involving violations of both state and federal law, the Justice Department often refrains from bringing federal charges, particularly when suspects face long state prison sentences. But South Carolina does not have a hate crimes law, and federal investigators believe that a murder case alone would leave the racial component of the shooting unaddressed.
The site also showed 60 photographs, including one of Mr. Roof holding a Confederate flag in one hand and a handgun in the other. Other photos of Mr. Roof appeared to have been taken at Confederate heritage sites and slavery museums.
Analysts at the F.B.I. laboratory in Quantico, Va., are also analyzing a computer and phone that Mr. Roof had used, officials said. The agents and analysts are piecing together Mr. Roof’s communications and uncovering any information that may have been deleted.
When federal and state prosecutors each bring charges, they typically coordinate their cases so one does not undermine the other. The death penalty could be a factor. South Carolina’s murder law carries a possible death sentence, while a violation of the federal hate crime law carries up to life in prison. Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, has called for Mr. Roof to face the death penalty.