The Justice Department will seek the death penalty against Charleston church shooting suspect Dylann Roof, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced on Tuesday.
“Following the department’s rigorous review process to thoroughly consider all relevant factual and legal issues, I have determined that the Justice Department will seek the death penalty,” Lynch said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision.”
In July last year, Roof pleaded not guilty to all federal charges in the allegedly racially motivated June 18 shootings at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
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Lynch previously said in a news conference at the time that Roof sought out African Americans and said “racially motivated violence such as this is the original domestic terrorism.”
Roof is accused of killing nine people in a mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 18 last year. He has been charged with 33 federal counts, including several hate crimes.
The last execution carried out by the federal government was in 2003.
According to the Associated Press, Roof’s attorney initially told the judge that his client actually wanted to plead guilty to all 33 counts, but that his lawyer could not advise his client because the government hadn’t yet decided whether to seek the death penalty.