Dylann Roof, who killed nine people in a shooting at a historically black Charleston, South Carolina, church will face dozens of federal hate crimes charges, the Associated Press reported. Charges were widely expected: In the aftermath of the shooting, images of Roof posing with historically racist symbols, including the Confederate battle flag, and the discovery of a racist manifesto left little doubt the shooting was racially motivated.
"We are here today to announced that a federal grand jury in South Carolina has returned a 33-count indictment against Dylann Storm Roof," U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Wednesday at a press conference announcing the official charges. "Roof decided to seek out and murder African Americans because of their race."
Among the charges were 18 counts of murder and 6 counts of attempted murder brought under two separate federal hate crime statutes. Lynch added "no decision has been made," as to whether the federal government would seek the death penalty.
The shooting, which Roof hoped would ignite a "race war," resulted in the exact opposite: an outpouring of support across political and racial lines. At Roof's arraignment, family members of the slain said they forgave him.
The attack, one of the worst since the civil rights era, set off a chain of events around the state and the country regarding the appropriateness of the Confederate flag in public life. In the state capitol in Columbia, the Confederate standard flew prominently over the Statehouse grounds after 1961, and in modern times was defended by supporters of Southern heritage and much of the Southern Republican political establishment.
After the shooting, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley promptly reversed her previous position and demanded the flag be moved to a museum. Republican lawmakers in the Statehouse quickly fell into line with a clean bill to remove the flag, which passed swiftly in the state Senate and somewhat more grudgingly in the House. Alabama's Republican governor, Robert Bentley, voluntarily removed the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds there to head off protests, while Mississippi's House speaker, Philip Gunn, also called for the Confederate emblem to be removed from the state's official flag.
Around the country, TV Land pulled reruns of the Dukes of Hazzard due to the iconic presence of the show's Confederate flag-domed 1969 Dodge Charger, the General Lee. Activists even called for the removal of the grandfather of all Confederate memorials, a mountain relief in Stone Mountain, Georgia, honoring Confederate military and political symbols.