According to CNN, two senior law enforcement officials said Dylann Roof confessed to killing nine people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. One of the law enforcement officials said that Roof claimed to investigators that he waged a mass shooting in one of the nation's oldest historically black churches because he wanted to "start a race war." So now that there is a confession, what happens to Roof next?
Roof was caught in Shelby, North Carolina, 245 miles from Charleston, on Thursday morning after several callers reported to police that they had spotted him in his car. The 21-year old was extradited back to South Carolina, where he was booked at the Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston.
Roof is due in court for a bail hearing Friday afternoon. He is charged with the killings of the nine black worshipers he shot down after joining their prayer meeting for over an hour. (Update: He has been charged with nine counts of murder and possession of a firearm.) Federal officials are investigating the attack as a hate crime, which the local police working on the case have already begun calling the massacre. Survivors reported that before he began shooting, Roof told them he had to do it because, "You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country."
According to NBC, Roof told police that he "almost didn't go through with it because everyone was so nice to him," but that ultimately he decided to "go through with his mission."
Investigators said that Roof bought himself the .45-caliber handgun he used to carry out the brutal killings at a local shop last April. Previously, police indicated that Roof was given a gun for his birthday. But the killer's grandfather said that Roof was given money for his birthday, but the family didn't know what he had done with it.
Although Roof has confessed to police, he will still have to stand trial. A confession is not enough to convict someone of a crime, so after Roof is officially charged with the crimes — he is expected to be charged with nine counts of murder — he will still have the option of pleading guilty or not guilty. This is generally a safeguard in case the suspect was coerced into giving a confession.
South Carolina is one of only a handful of states that doesn't have hate crime laws in place. If the DOJ decides to treat this mass shooting as a hate crime, then federal officials will have the authority to prosecute Roof. Still, hate crimes are generally meant to strengthen an existing punishment. If Roof is convicted of killing nine people, he will almost certainly already get the death penalty.
But a hate crime charge could send a message of how federal officials are willing to tackle attacks like this in the United States. Even if it wouldn't make much of a difference, the charge could be an invaluable symbol for protection against prejudice.
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