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Man charged with massacring black people in church is attacked in jail

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof

The white man charged in the massacre of nine black parishioners at a church has been attacked by a black inmate at the South Carolina jail where he is being held, law officials said.

Dylann Roof, 22, was targeted by Dwayne Stafford after he went into the shower block at about 7.45am on Thursday at Charleston County detention centre.

Stafford ran down stairs from his cell and attacked Roof, causing bruising to his face and back, according to a police report.

Roof was examined by jail medical personnel and then returned to his cell.

While authorities earlier said Stafford would be charged with assault, Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon told reporters Roof and his lawyers do not want to press charges.

Stafford, 26, is awaiting trial on first-degree assault and strong armed robbery charges.

Officials are investigating how Stafford managed to get through a cell door to reach Roof.

The two detention officers assigned to the unit are being interviewed. Officials also are looking into the possibility of an electronic malfunction, Mr Cannon said.

This was the jail's first incident with Roof, he added.

Roof has been housed at the centre since being brought back from North Carolina a day after the slayings of nine parishioners during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 17 last year.

Prosecutors have said Roof was trying to make his way to Nashville, Tennessee, after the shootings.

Roof faces the death penalty in upcoming trials in both federal and state courts.

The federal government has charged Roof with hate crimes and other offences in the shootings.

Prosecutors allege Roof talked of starting a race war and posed with the Confederate battle flag before the killings. His federal trial is set for November.

He also faces the death penalty in state court where he is charged with nine counts of murder in a trial set to begin next year.

Defence lawyers have said in both state and federal courts that Roof is willing to plead guilty and serve a life term in prison if prosecutors do not seek the death penalty.

Roof's lawyers in the federal case have asked a judge to declare the federal death penalty unconstitutional which they said would clear the way for Roof to plead guilty.