FBI Director James Comey said Thursday he is still weighing whether the killings of nine African-Americans at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, last month by an avowed White supremacist Dylann Roof meets the legal definition of terrorism, reports The Huffington Post.
Terrorism is defined by the FBI as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives,” the report notes.
The question arises after Roof, 21, was charged in the fatal shootings of nine people during a prayer service last month at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston. He apparently wrote a racist manifesto saying he wanted to “protect the White race” and had “no choice” but to kill innocent worshipers.
From The Huffington Post:
Before the manifesto surfaced online, Comey said he was unsure whether the shooting was a “political act.” An FBI spokesman said Comey’s comments were made while the situation was “still fluid.” But now that Roof’s motivations are more clear, Comey said he’s still not sure.
The distinction is important. Hate crimes are not separate charges, but an “enhancement” to an existing charge, like assault or murder, reports BBC. Terrorism charges, which are harder to prove than regular crimes partly because they rely on motive and other psychological factors, are discrete offenses, including charges like material support for terrorist groups and use of weapons of mass destruction, writes the British news outlet.
Comey says the label will not impact the energy that investigators apply to the crime, writes The Huffington Post:
Comey’s view contrasts with that of former Attorney General Eric Holder, who told The Huffington Post this week that Charleston was “clearly an act of terrorism.” It was a “political-violent” act, Holder said.
“With a different set of circumstances, and if you had dialed in religion there, Islam, that would be called an act of terror,” Holder said. “It seems to me that, again on the basis of the information that has been released, that’s what we have here. An act of terror.”
What do you think? Was it terrorism or a hate crime? Sound off below…
SOURCE: The Huffington Post | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty