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Justice Department Will Seek Death Penalty for Alleged Charleston Church Shooter Dylann Roof

Roof is charged with nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
Image: Dylann Storm Roof
In this handout photo provided by the Charleston County Sheriff's Office Detention Center, Dylann Storm Roof is seen in his booking photo after he was apprehended as the main suspect in the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that killed nine people on June 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston County Sheriff's Office / Getty Images

The Department of Justice notified a federal judge Tuesday that it will seek the death penalty against the man accused of killing nine people last year in a Charleston, South Carolina, church.

"The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision," said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Roof, 22, is already charged with murder in state court for the shooting rampage at the historically black Emanuel AME Church, and state prosecutors announced earlier that they would seek the death penalty.

A South Carolina judge has ordered Roof to stand trial on the state charges in January.

Federal prosecutors will almost certainly wait until that case has concluded before deciding whether to seek a trial in federal court.

Related: Judge Delays Trial Against Charleston Church Shooter Dylann Roof Until January 2017

Justice Department officials, however, filed their own charges, because they believed the severity of the crime warranted a strong response

In listing the reasons for seeking the death penalty, federal prosecutors said Roof "targeted men and women participating in a Bible study group" at the church "in order to magnify the societal impact" of his shootings.

His acts were also racially motivated, the prosecutor said. "Dylann Storm Roof has expressed hatred and contempt towards African Americans, as well as other groups, and his animosity toward African Americans played a role in the murders."

What's more, they said, he has demonstrated a lack of remorse.

Roof has pleaded not guilty to the charges. No trial date has been set in federal court.