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Families of 9 killed in SC church massacre reach $88 million settlement with government

A mistake by the government allowed Dylann Roof to purchase the gun he used to kill 9 people at Mother Emanuel AME Church.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Families of nine victims killed in a racist attack at a Black South Carolina church have reached a settlement with the Justice Department over a faulty background check that allowed Dylann Roof to purchase the gun he used in the 2015 massacre. 

The $88 million deal includes $63 million for the families of the slain and $25 million for survivors of the shooting, was announced Thursday in Washington. The attorneys say this is the largest resolution of a Civil Rights case in United States history. 

“On July 17, 2015, a white supremacist named Dylann Roof murdered nine men and women for no other reason than the color of their skin. Nothing can make up for that,” said Bakari Sellers, an attorney with the Strom Law Firm representing families of the victims. “We only hope that today’s announcement helps bring these families and our nation one step closer to closure.”

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Weeks before the church shooting, Roof was arrested by Columbia, South Carolina, police on the drug possession charge. But a series of clerical errors and missteps allowed Roof to buy the handgun he later used in the killings.

Roof is a white supremacist who wrote repeatedly about his beliefs before the killings and afterward in both jail and prison.  Roof had planned and prepared for the mass shooting by doing things like buying a gun, having target practice in his backyard, researching and studying racist websites, and driving to the church several times in the months leading up to the shooting. 

Roof is on federal death row for the slayings at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. In 2017, Roof became the first person in the U.S. sentenced to death for a federal hate crime. Roof opened fire during the closing prayer of a 2015 Bible study session at Charleston's Mother Emanuel AME Church. 

Following his federal trial, Roof was given nine consecutive life sentences after pleading guilty in 2017 to state murder charges, leaving him to await execution in a federal prison and sparing his victims and their families the burden of a second trial.

Back in August, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his conviction

The victims in the shooting were the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Myra Thompson and The Senator Clementa C. Pinckney, who was also the pastor of Mother Emanuel.