The nation has been rocked by the murder of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, and the Department of Justice has responded by deciding to open an investigation into whether or not the shooting constitutes a hate crime.
A hate crime investigation differs from a standard investigation because it seeks to uncover whether or not there’s an element of bias that motivated the crime. Congress has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.”
Dylann Storm Roof, 21, is accused of opening fire on nine people who were praying as a group at the historically black church. Roof, who is white, allegedly shot all nine black churchgoers at close range.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she would ensure the family and loved ones of those who were murdered would see justice.
"The Department of Justice has opened a hate crime investigation into the shooting incident," Lynch said this morning in Washington, D.C. "The FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshall Service, civil rights division and the U.S. attorney's office are working closely with state and local partners and we stand ready to offer every resource, every means and every tool that we poses in order to locate and to apprehend the perpetrator of this barbaric crime. Acts like this one have no place in our country, and no place in a civilized society.
"And I want to be clear: The individual who committed these acts will be found and will face justice. As we move forward in the matter, my thoughts and prayers and those of our entire law enforcement community, here at the Department of Justice and around the country, are with the families and loved ones of the victims in Charleston. Even as we struggle to understand the heartbreaking event, I want everyone in Charleston and everyone affected by the tragedy to know we will do everything we can to help heal the community and make it whole again.”
Roof reportedly prayed in the church for an hour before opening fire. He has since been apprehended.
Among those dead are Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, the church’s pastor and a South Carolina state Democratic senator, Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49, a member of the church’s choir, Ethel Lance, 70, a longtime church employee, her cousin Susie Jackson, 87, and library manager Cynthia Hurd, 54.
Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a church pastor and high school track and field coach, also died in the attack, along with Myra Thompson, 59, and retired Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, who died at a hospital later.
Image via FBI