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FBI Director James Comey declined to label the Wednesday shooting at a predominantly black church in Charleston, S.C., as a terrorist act.
"Terrorism is act of violence done or threatens to in order to try to influence a public body or citizenry, so it’s more of a political act and again based on what I know so more I don’t see it as a political act," Comey said at a press conference Friday in Baltimore.
Authorities arrested Dylann Roof, 21, earlier this week in connection with the killing of nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Some have called the incident an act of terror. The FBI’s official definition of terrorism is: “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 Department of Justice announced Friday it was investigating the shooting as a potential “act of domestic terrorism” as well as a hate crime.
"This heartbreaking episode was undoubtedly designed to strike fear and terror into this community, and the department is looking at this crime from all angles, including as a hate crime and as an act of domestic terrorism," Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce said.
Speaking in Baltimore, which recently experienced violent race-related protests, Comey said that "when you find yourself in a community where the gun becomes an article of clothing — that's a recipe for a lot of people dying."
"I think what we have to do in law enforcement, is make them afraid to put on that gun, and if they're caught with it, they're going to go to jail for a long stretch of time," Comey said at the press conference.
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