South Carolina Governor Wants Death Penalty for Church Shooting Suspect

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley speaks to press outside the Emanuel AME Church June 19, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.US police arrested a white high school dropout Thursday suspected of carrying out a gun massacre at one of America's oldest black churches, the latest deadly assault to fuel simmering racial tensions. Authorities detained 21-year-old Dylann Roof, shown wearing the flags of defunct white supremacist regimes in pictures taken from social media, after nine churchgoers were shot dead during a Bible study class on Wednesday evening. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKIBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Gov. Nikki Haley

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Friday the suspect in the fatal shooting of nine people during a Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, should face the death penalty if convicted.

The 21-year-old suspect, Dylann Roof, was set to have a court hearing later in the day.

“We will absolutely will want him to have the death penalty,” Haley told NBC on Friday morning, referring to Roof, who was arrested a day earlier in North Carolina after being spotted by a woman on her way to work who tipped off police.

Charleston police said Thursday night that Roof had been brought back to the state after he waived his right to extradition. Roof is being held at the Al Cannon Detention Center pending a bond hearing, in which Roof is expected to appear by video, on Friday. Citing law enforcement sources, various media outlets reported Friday that Roof has confessed to the killings.

Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said Thursday that the suspect attended a prayer meeting at the Emanuel AME church and stayed for almost an hour before opening fire on the victims, killing nine people, including the church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney.

Police believe Roof, who authorities say was motivated by racial hatred against African-Americans, acted alone. An uncle said Roof, whose social media profile suggests a fascination with white supremacy, received a gun as a 21st birthday present in April.

Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of Pinckney, told MSNBC that a survivor of the shooting attack told her the gunman reloaded five times during the attack despite pleas for him to stop. “He just said, ‘I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country,’” Johnson said.

State court records for Roof show a misdemeanor drug case from March that was pending against him and a misdemeanor trespassing charge from April. Authorities had no immediate details on those cases.

It is not known whether Roof had previous cases against him as a juvenile, as juvenile records are usually sealed in South Carolina. Court records list no attorney for him. Roof displayed a Confederate flag on his license plate, according to Kimberly Konzny, the mother of a friend of Roof’s.

His Facebook profile picture showed him wearing a jacket with a green-and-white flag patch, the emblem of white-ruled Rhodesia, the African country that became Zimbabwe in 1980. Another patch showed the South African flag from the era of white minority rule that ended in the 1990s.

In Montgomery, Alabama, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Richard Cohen, said it is unclear whether Roof had any connection to any of the 16 white supremacist organizations the SPLC has identified as operating in South Carolina.

But Cohen said that based on Roof’s Facebook page, he appeared to be a “disaffected white supremacist.”

Source: Al Jazeera and wire services 

Reprinted with permission from Al Jazeera


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