Oct 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

DOJ settles lawsuit from families of Charleston church shooting victims

People outside of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in July 2015.

People outside of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in July 2015. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Department of Justice on Thursday announced an $88 million settlement with the families of victims from the racist 2015 mass shooting at a historically Black church in South Carolina.

Why it matters: Families of the victims alleged that the FBI did not perform a thorough background check on the gunman, Dylan Roof, when he purchased the firearm used during the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

The families sued the federal government for wrongful death and physical injuries, saying it was partially responsible for the shooting by failing to discover that Roof was prohibited from purchasing a firearm because he was arrested on a drug possession charge just a few months earlier.

Carl Pierce, a Charleston lawyer whose firm represented one of the victims, told Axios the settlement would be divided among 14 plaintiffs, nine of whom were killed and five who survived.

  • The Justice Department said families of those killed in the shooting will receive from $6 million to $7.5 million per claimant, while survivors will receive $5 million per claimant.

What they're saying: “The mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church was a horrific hate crime that caused immeasurable suffering for the families of the victims and the survivors,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

  • “Since the day of the shooting, the Justice Department has sought to bring justice to the community, first by a successful hate crime prosecution and today by settling civil claims.”

The big picture: Roof, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, was sentenced to nine life sentences, one for each death, and to death for federal hate crime charges because he had purposefully targeted Black victims.

Go deeper: FBI says it undercounted hate crimes in 2020

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