DOJ Agrees To Pay $88M To Victims, Families Of South Carolina Church Shooting

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A settlement was reached between the U.S. Justice Department and the victims and families of a 2015 church shooting in South Carolina.

As reported by the Associated Press:

The Justice Department will pay $88 million, which includes $63 million for the families of the nine people killed and $25 million for five survivors who were inside the church at the time of the shooting, it was announced Thursday.

The settlement was reached due to the fact that a sequence of “clerical errors” reportedly led to the assailant being able to purchase a weapon.

The Justice Department stated:

These settlements will resolve claims by 14 plaintiffs arising out of the shooting. Plaintiffs agreed to settle claims alleging that the FBI was negligent when it failed to prohibit the sale of a gun by a licensed firearms dealer to the shooter, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, who wanted to start a “race war” and specifically targeted the 200-year-old historically African-American congregation. For those killed in the shooting, the settlements range from $6 million to $7.5 million per claimant. For the survivors, the settlements are for $5 million per claimant.

Bakari Sellers, a lawyer who assisted in creating the agreement, told the Associated Press that the “88” number was intentional because it’s a figure reportedly connected to white supremacy and the amount of bullets the shooter said he brought with him.

“We’ve given a big ‘F you’ to white supremacy and racism,” Sellers told the AP. “We’re doing that by building generational wealth in these Black communities, from one of the most horrific race crimes in the country.”

The Justice Department described the massacre, stating that “[o]n June 17, 2015, Mother Emanuel congregants welcomed a stranger who had entered their church. They invited him to participate in their Wednesday night bible study. Tragically, at the close of the bible study, the young man they had welcomed killed nine people, including Mother Emanuel’s pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, also a South Carolina State Senator.”

As USA Today reported, the shooter “was convicted and sentenced to death for killing nine congregants during a Bible study program June 17, 2015.”

The families of the nine people who were killed, as well as the five survivors who were inside the church at the time of the shooting, sued the government,” the outlet noted.

The Justice Department described the legal action, noting, the “[p]laintiffs asserted that the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Checks System (NICS) failed to timely discover that the shooter was a person prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm. Plaintiffs alleged that because of this delay, the shooter was able to purchase the handgun that he used to commit the atrocity.”

“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 a 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.”

The AP noted that Sellers stated that the agreement, which was made at an earlier date this month, is still waiting for approval from a judge.

The Justice Department also noted, “[u]nder applicable law, the court must approve the settlements for many of the plaintiffs. All parties expect that the court will agree that these settlements are fair and reasonable.”

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