Dylan Roof, the 22 year old Charleston man who shot and killed 9 black church-goers in 2015 was assaulted Thursday by a fellow prisoner. The prisoner was a black man named Dwayne Stafford.
The official statement from the South Carolina jail where Roof is being held states that he was being escorted to the showers when the assault occurred. The officer escorting him broke protocol and left Roof to drop off toilet paper in one of the jail’s bathrooms. While he was gone, Stafford ran down a set of stairs and reportedly punched Roof in the face and back.
The prison is looking into why Stafford was able to get into the area when he was supposed to be on the other side of a locked door. They are also looking into the involvement or negligence of prison staff; the officer escorting Roof broke procedure by leaving him alone and the other officer on duty was reportedly on a break. Sheriff Al Cannon said that this was “not regular procedure.”
Roof entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during evening Bible study on June 17, 2015 and opened fire with a legally owned handgun. He stated that he wanted to begin a race war and a racist online manifesto has been attributed to Roof; pictures were found of Roof with the Confederate Flag, Nazi symbols, and a handgun. It is widely accepted that he targeted the Charleston Church because of its black membership.
Many reports of Stafford’s assault on Roof call it “unprovoked.” This is problematic because it forgets that Roof’s actions were motivated by racist hate. Hate crimes hold different legal weight because they act as a threat to an entire demographic; when Roof killed 9 black people, he threatened the entire black population. While I do not condone violence, Stafford’s attack was not unprovoked. In the moment, most likely, Roof did not provoke his fellow inmate; but, he provoked an entire community and their supporters when he targeted and killed certain people because they were black.
This is also why many have already donated money to Stafford’s prison commissary, they understand his rage, they feel the same way toward Roof, and they want to see Roof punished for his violence and racism. Donating money through sites like GoFundMe has become a popular means of showing support in racially divided cases such as this. Officer Darren Wilson, who killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown, reportedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars from his supporters.
Stafford is being held at the jail for assault and robbery charges. It is not clear yet if he will face additional charges for this assault. Cannon stated that if they did not find a cooperating witness it would be very difficult to charge Stafford. Roof has reportedly stated that he does not want to press charges.
In May, Attorney General Lorretta Lynch stated that federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty in Roof’s case because of “the nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm.” His trial is set to begin January 17, 2017.