The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday announced an $88 million settlement with the families of the victims and survivors of the 2015 Charleston church mass shooting where a White supremacist murdered nine Black worshippers.
The victims and survivors were partaking in an evening service at the historically Black Mother Emanuel AME Church when Dylan Roof, who has since been convicted, entered and opened fire.
Following the gruesome incident, the FBI was hit with civil cases by the 14 plaintiffs who accused the agency of breach of duty for failing to do a proper background check that could have ultimately prevented Roof from purchasing the firearm he used in the shooting, USA TODAY reported.
The settlements for the families of the deceased victims range from $6 million to $7.5 million, while the survivors will receive $5 million, the DOJ said in a statement.
“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,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in the statement. “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.”
Speaking with reporters after meeting Garland, the families of the victims expressed satisfaction with the settlement. “In spite of losing my wife, this brought the state together, it brought a church together, it brought a nation together,” Rev. Anthony Thompson, whose wife was killed in the shooting, said.
Jennifer Pinckney, who lost her husband Rev. Clementa Pinckney in the shooting, also said no amount of monetary compensation could make up for the deceased family man’s absence in their lives.
“He was an excellent father to our daughters,” Pinckney said. “He was an excellent husband. We have to continue on.” Rev. Pickney was a state senator in South Carolina and pastor at the church.
In 2017, Dylann Roof was sentenced to death on federal hate crime charges for the shooting. And in the lawsuit that was filed against the government, the plaintiffs alleged the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Checks System failed to determine Roof had actually been barred from possessing a firearm due to a previous arrest, USA TODAY reported.
“Since this tragic shooting, the FBI has worked to strengthen and improve the background check process,” the statement said. “The department and FBI are also actively working to combat gun violence, which is a significant aspect of the department’s comprehensive violent crime reduction strategy.”
One of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, Bakari Sellers, told USA TODAY the settlement is one of the largest civil rights agreements. Sellers also mentioned the significance of the amount, saying the number 88 is used by the White supremacist movement to acknowledge Adolf Hitler.
The lawyer said the settlement symbolizes a “big FU to white supremacists in this country.”