Accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof was attacked by a fellow inmate in the shower at the South Carolina jail where he is being held before his trial on murder and hate crime charges, officials say.
Dwayne Marion Stafford, 25, hit Roof in the face and body with his hands, the sheriff’s office said, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.
Roof, 22, was not seriously injured, according to officials at the Cannon Detention Center. Roof is accused of killing nine people as they held a prayer meeting at Emanuel AME Church, an historic black church in Charleston, last June.
South Carolina prosecutors charged Roof with nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He is also facing 33 federal offenses, including hate crime charges. Prosecutors say Roof targeted the victims, who were all black, based on their race and religion.
Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said at a press conference that Roof does not want to press charges against Stafford.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Stafford Left His Cell, Ran to Where Roof Was Showering & Attacked Him, Police Say
Dylann Roof was being taken from his cell on the upstairs level of the jail to a shower downstairs when he was attacked, officials told The Post and Courier. The incident occurred about 7:45 a.m.
According to the incident report obtained by the newspaper, Dwayne Marion Stafford exited his cell, ran downstairs and began assaulting Roof with his hands. Officers then stepped in to stop the fight, officials said. No weapons were involved.
Roof is being held in protective custody, jail officials said at a press conference. The other inmates should have been locked in their cells while Roof was being moved to the shower, officials said.
Sheriff Al Cannon told reporters that the incident is a “wake-up call” for them and they will be examining their procedures to determine if any changes need to be made.
“We have adequate policies in place,” Cannon said. “It’s a matter of, again, making sure that folks stay at a heightened sense of awareness and that they do follow those policies and procedures.”
Cannon said all the other inmates, including Stafford, in the area where Roof is being housed are in protective custody. Under protective custody procedures, jail guards should have locked all the other inmates in their cells before bringing Roof out of his cell to the shower. Cannon said it is not yet clear why Stafford’s cell wasn’t locked.
The sheriff also said two jail guards were supposed to be watching Roof while he was out of the cell. But one of the guards was taking a breaking and the other went to give toilet paper to an inmate, Cannon said.
2. Roof Suffered Bruises to His Face & Back During the Attack
Roof suffered bruises to his face and back, according to the incident report obtained by WCIV-TV.
Sheriff Al Cannon called the attack “unprovoked,” and said Roof was in a defensive position and did not return blows before the assault was broken up by guards.
He was examined by medical staff at the jail and was returned to his cell.
Officials called the injuries “relatively minor.”
3. Stafford Is Being Held in Jail on Robbery & First-Degree Assault Charges
Stafford, of Goose Creek, South Carolina, is being held at the jail on charges of strong armed robbery and first-degree assault and battery, The Post and Courier reports. He is also facing a charge of providing false information to a police officer. Court records show he has been arrested on more than a dozen misdemeanor charges since 2012, according to the newspaper.
He has been in custody since January 2015 and the charges are still pending, online records show.
Officials initially said Stafford could have faced an additional third-degree assault charges as a result of the jail attack. The investigation into the incident is continuing, despite Roof saying he does not want to press charges.
Sheriff Al Cannon told reporters, “If we don’t have a cooperating witness in a scenario like this, it makes it very difficult.”
4. He Has Been Praised as a Hero by Some on Social Media for Attacking Roof
Stafford has received praise from some on social media for his actions in attacking Roof, with some calling him a hero.
Others have called for people to put money into Stafford’s commissary account:
5. Roof Is Facing the Death Penalty in Both Federal & State Court
Roof is facing the death penalty in both federal and state courts. The federal trial begins first, in November.
Earlier this week, Roof’s attorneys said they would be challenging the legality of the federal death penalty, CNN reported.
“The facts of this case are indisputably grave,” Roof’s attorneys said in a motion, according to CNN. “But if, as we contend here, the FDPA [Federal Death Penalty Act] is unconstitutional, no one can be lawfully sentenced to death or executed under it, no matter what his crimes.”
The state case against Roof is scheduled to go to trial in January 2017.
Roof’s attorneys have said he would plead guilty in both federal and state courts if he is spared the death penalty.