The Justice Department likely will file federal hate crime charges against Dylann Roof, the man accused of killing nine people in a historically black church in Charleston, a local prosecutor said.
“I’d be surprised if they didn’t,” 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said about the federal charges. “They have been involved from the start, and they have been very helpful.”
Citing a law enforcement official, The New York Times also reported Wednesday that FBI analysts believe “with a high degree of certainty” that Roof posted a racist manifesto online, which could be a key to any federal charges.
“This directly fits the hate crime statute. This is exactly what it was created for,” one law enforcement official told The Times.
Wilson said that she wasn’t sure when federal hate crime charges would be filed. “The president and the attorney general also have expressed interest in the case, and I expect them to move forward in any way they can,” she said.
Roof was assigned state public defenders before his first appearance in state court on Monday. His bail was set at $1 million, which he has not posted. Two federal public defenders in South Carolina also have been assigned to defend Roof, a sign that federal charges are expected.
The manifesto likely would be a key part of any hate crime case. “I have no choice,” says one section of the document. “I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”
A website linked to Roof also showed 60 photographs, including one of Roof holding a Confederate battle flag in one hand and a handgun in the other. Other photos of Roof appeared to have been taken at Confederate heritage sites and slavery museums.
Historically black churches in South Carolina and elsewhere have suffered racial violence and vandalism for decades, including a wave of arsons in South Carolina and other Southern states in the 1990s.