South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) condemned Wednesday night's Charleston, S.C., church shooting as a "hate crime" and pledged that the state will seek the death penalty against accused killer Dylann Storm Roof.

"These are nine families that are struggling; this is a state that is hurt by the fact that nine people innocently were killed, we will absolutely want him to have the death penalty," Haley said Friday morning on NBC's "Today."

"This is the worst hate that I’ve seen and the country has seen in a long time. We will fight this, and we will fight this as hard as we can."

Roof, who is white, is suspected of carrying out the shooting. He allegedly waited at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for an hour during Bible study before opening fire on the congregants in the historically black church.


Witnesses say his motives appeared to be racial, and photos later emerged of Roof wearing a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and colonial Rhodesia, both of which engaged in segregation.

Authorities arrested Roof in North Carolina on Thursday morning.

South Carolina is one of the 31 states with the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The state could prosecute Roof under state crimes, leaving state prosecutors with the option of seeking the death penalty in his case.

Roof also crossed state lines in fleeing his alleged crimes and is being investigated for violating federal hate crime laws, so he could also be tried on federal charges. Federal prosecutors still seek the death penalty in certain cases, including the recent conviction of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Haley also pushed back against President Obama's calls for the nation to readdress its gun policies in the wake of the tragedy.

"Anytime there is a traumatic situation, people want something to blame; they always want something to go after. There's one person to blame here, a person filled with hate, a person that does not define South Carolina," she said.

"I know President Obama had his job to do when he made those statements, but my job is to now get the state to heal, and our focus very much is on those nine families, it’s on the Mother Emanuel Church family, it’s on the AME family and it’s on the people of South Carolina."