CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The pastor of the Charleston church where nine people were gunned down in June reacted to news the Ninth Circuit Solicitor would seek the death penalty against the man accused of the shooting.
The Rev. Norvel Goff, who is acting as interim pastor at Mother Emanuel AME Church, said Thursday's announcement is another part of the process for the survivors and victims' families who want justice. Goff said he respects Wilson's decision.
"(We) want to see how we vet this whole tragedy and how we make some sense out of this nonsense and go about it in a methodical way," Goff said.
Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said Thursday the shooting of nine people at the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting was "the ultimate crime" that calls for "the ultimate punishment."
"The murders at the Mother Emanuel Church were heinous acts that changed the future of 10 families forever," she said.
Wilson made the remarks at a press conference to announce her office would seek the death penalty against Dylann Roof, 21, who faces nine charges of murder, three charges of attempted murder and a weapons charge in the June 17 massacre at the downtown Charleston church.
The court document notifying Roof and his attorneys of the decision to seek the death penalty was filed at 12:48 p.m. on Thursday.
"This was the ultimate crime, and justice from our state calls for the ultimate punishment," Wilson said, after acknowledging that some family members of the victims of the church shooting do not believe in the death penalty under any circumstances while others call it, "too easy." Others, she said, have indicated they feel the death penalty is completely appropriate.
"We all agree that forgiveness can be an important part of the healing process, but know that forgiveness doesn't necessarily mean forgoing consequences, even severe consequences," she said.
The court notice explains the decision to seek the death penalty is based on two aggravating circumstances, alleging Roof, "by his act of murder knowingly created a great risk of death to more than one person in a public place by means of a weapon or device which normally would be hazardous to the lives of more than one person;" and "two or more persons were murdered by Dylann Storm Roof by one act or pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct."
Authorities have said Roof admitted to wanting to start a "race war" when he opened fire inside the church after attending a Bible study the night of the shooting.
In addition to the 13 state charges against Roof, he faces 33 federal 33 federal hate crime and weapons charges, bringing the total number of charges against him to 46.
In July, Roof pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on the federal charges in Charleston. He has been jailed since his arrest days after the shooting.
At the time of that hearing, Roof's attorney, David Bruck, said Roof was ready to plead guilty, but changed the plea because they do not yet know whether federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty. They say Roof intends to enter a guilty plea once he knows whether he's facing the death penalty.
There is still no official word on whether federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty.
"As set forth in the indictment, several months prior to the tragic events of June 17, Roof conceived of his goal of increasing racial tensions throughout the nation and seeking retribution for perceived wrongs he believed African Americans had committed against white people," U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said at a news conference when announcing the federal charges earlier that month.
In addition to State Sen. and Rev. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Emanuel AME Church, the other victims of the shooting were Tywanza Sanders, the Revs. Sharonda Singleton, DePayne Middleton Doctor, and Daniel Simmons Sr.; and Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, and Susie Jackson.
Judge J.C. Nicholson set a trial date of July 11, 2016.