Charleston shooting probed as 'Act of domestic terrorism'

2015-06-19 21:27
Dylann Roof appears via video before a judge in Charleston. (AP)

Dylann Roof appears via video before a judge in Charleston. (AP)

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Washington - The murders of nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, is being investigated by the Justice Department as a possible case of domestic terrorism, a spokesperson said on Friday.

"The department is looking at this crime from all angles, including as a hate crime and as an act of domestic terrorism," the department's Emily Pierce said in a statement.

The Department of Justice had not previously disclosed that domestic terrorism was one of the avenues being pursued in the federal investigation.

She added that the department's investigation is ongoing.

At a news conference on Thursday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch told reporters all motivations would be considered in determining how best to prosecute the case.

Suspected shooter Dylann Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder for the mass shooting at a historic black South Carolina church on Wednesday.

He will be held without bail on the murder charges.

Relatives of the nine victims were invited to speak at Friday's hearing. Several broke down in tears as they spoke of their loss, but also said they forgave Roof.

"Every fibre in my body hurts, and I'll never be the same. Tywanza Sanders was my son. But he was my hero," said Felicia Sanders.

Judge James Gosnell's opening statement - in which he asked the community to help relatives of the suspect - instantly created a stir on social media.

"We have victims, nine of them. But we also have victims on the other side. There are victims on this young man's side of the family," Gosnell said.

"Nobody would have ever thrown them into the whirlwind of events that they have been thrown into."

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