Justice Department to Pay $88 Million to Families, Survivors of 2015 AME Church Shooting

Milton Quintanilla | Contributor for ChristianHeadlines.com | Updated: Nov 01, 2021
Justice Department to Pay $88 Million to Families, Survivors of 2015 AME Church Shooting

Justice Department to Pay $88 Million to Families, Survivors of 2015 AME Church Shooting

The U.S. Justice Department has agreed to pay $88 million to the families and survivors of the 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, that left nine churchgoers dead.

The families of the slain victims had filed a lawsuit over a faulty background check that enabled Roof to buy the handgun he used to carry out the shooting.

"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," he added.

According to CBN News, the $88 million settlement includes $63 million for the families of fallen victims and $25 million for those who survived the massacre. The shooting was carried out by a man named Dylann Roof on June 15, 2015.

Attorney Bakari Sellers, who helped broker the agreement, explained that the number 88 was significant because it represented the number of bullets Roof was carrying with him during the attack. It is also a number often linked to white supremacy.

The settlements, which are still pending a judge's approval, range from $6 million to $7.5 million per claimant for the families of the slain, according to the Justice Department. Meanwhile, survivor's settlements are at $5 million per claimant.

Prior to the mass shooting, Roof was arrested by Columbia, S.C. police on a drug possession charge that should have prevented him from purchasing a firearm. However, after several clerical errors and a lack of due diligence, Roof would be permitted to buy the gun he would later use in the church shooting.

According to court documents, the errors included incorrectly listing the sheriff's office as the arresting agency instead of the Columbia Police Department.

At the time, an examiner with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System reached out to the sheriff's office for more information on the arrest in order to determine if the sale should be denied. The examiner would learn that the sheriff's department did not have a report on Roof's arrest. After receiving this news, the examiner would attempt to contact the Columbia Police Department, but after she was unable to locate or contact them, she ended the inquiry. Roof was then able to buy a handgun at a West Columbia store after the standard 3-day waiting period passed.

The 2015 shooting was deemed the worst terrorist attack on an African American congregation in the past five decades.

In 2017, Roof became the first person in America to receive a death sentence for a federal hate crime. He was also sentenced to nine consecutive life sentences after pleading guilty to state murder charges.

At the time of the federal trial, Roof showed no remorse for the killings, telling the jury that he had to do it. The gunman also contended that he does not have a mental illness.

In August, a federal appeals court upheld Roof's death sentence.


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Photo courtesy: ©Getty-Images/Jeff Gentner/Stringer

Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.

Justice Department to Pay $88 Million to Families, Survivors of 2015 AME Church Shooting