Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof, who is accused of killing nine people at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in July 2015.
Roof is charged with 33 federal offenses, including hate crime charges for allegedly targeting his victims on the basis of their race and religion.
“The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.
Roof, 22, is accused of shooting participants of a Bible study class at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, known as Mother Emanuel, in downtown Charleston on June 17, 2015.
Among the victims was the church’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who also was a state senator.
Roof, who is white, is charged with murder. Charleston County Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said last year that she will seek the death penalty in the state’s case, which is scheduled to go to trial in January.
There is no date yet for his federal trial.
Roof, a high school dropout not known for violence, was captured in North Carolina the day after the shootings. He confessed in interviews with the Charleston police and FBI, two law enforcement officials told CNN. He also told investigators he wanted to start a race war, one of those officials said.
By Steve Almasy and Tristan Smith, CNN