Department Of Justice To Pay Families Of Church Shooting Victims Over $88M

People stand outside as parishioners leave the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Sunday, June 21, 2015, in Charleston, S.C., four days after a mass shooting at the church claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

After quite some time, a settlement between the victims and families of a 2015 church shooting in South Carolina and the U.S. Justice Department has finally been reached.

As stated in a report from 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.

This settlement was the result of the fact that a large, and chained, number of “clerical errors” reportedly ended up allowing the assailant to purchase the weapon with which they carried out their assault on the church.

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As stated by the Justice Department:

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.

One lawyer that helped in the creation of the agreement, Bakari Sellers, stated to the Associated Press that the “88” number was very intentional due to the fact that its a figure that is reportedly connected to white supremacy and was the amount of ammunition the shooter stated that he took with him.

“We’ve given a big ‘F you’ to white supremacy and racism,” stated Sellers in an interview with 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.”

In a statement about the disaster, the Justice Department stated 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.”

In a report from USA Today, 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,” concluded the news outlet.

The Justice Department went on to describe the legal action stating that 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,” stated Merrick Garland, the Attorney General, in a release. “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 agreement was made earlier on this month and is currently waiting to receive approval from a judge.

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