An $88 million settlement was announced Thursday by the U.S. Department of Justice in a lawsuit that claimed the Federal Bureau of Investigation was negligent in failing to stop a South Carolina man from buying the gun he used to kill nine people June 17, 2015 at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
Fourteen victims — survivors and families those killed — filed suit a year after the massacre at the Calhoun Street church, alleging delays by the FBI and its National Instant Criminal Background Checks System (NICS) contributed to series of events that led to the shooting.
Shortly after the shooting, FBI Director James Comey admitted the system failed to find that Dylann Roof was prohibited from purchasing firearms when he visited a West Columbia gun store April 11, 2015 to purchase the Glock pistol he would use two months later in Charleston — an attempt to start a “race war,” he said in personal writings.
The victims killed at Emanuel June 17, 2015, were: The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, the Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, the Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Myra Thompson and S.C. Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney. Pinckney was also the pastor of Mother Emanuel.
Roof researched and decided to visit a Wednesday night Bible study at the predominantly Black church because of the church’s historical significance in the fight for civil rights. After praying with the group, he stood up and started firing before fleeing. He was arrested the next day.
Settlement amounts range from $6 million to $7.5 million, according to the Department of Justice.
S.C. Rep. JA Moore, D-Hanahan, is the half brother of Myra Thompson, and said the fight on behalf of those killed is not over. Numerous efforts at the state and national levels have failed to fix the legal lapse that allowed Roof to buy the gun, often referred to as the Charleston Loophole.
“Financial restitution is not justice. Real justice will occur when the hate that drove Dylann Roof to commit that terrible act – which took away my sister – is driven from our society,” Moore said in a statement.
“The Charleston loophole is still open. I will keep fighting to end it,” he said.
Charleston attorney Andy Savage has represented many of the families of Emanuel victims since shortly after the murders.
In a statement Thursday, he wrote on behalf of his clients:
“The funds made available to these families will help accommodate their material needs, but the depth of their loss of cherished loved ones, and the continued mental anguish caused by their vivid memories of helplessly watching the racist slaughter of family and friends, cannot be assuaged by money alone.
“It is their hope that their experience will help to focus those in leadership positions on the plight of the daily trauma suffered by an untold number of victims of gun violence. To do nothing is to continue to accept racial violence and wanton massacres as an integral part of the American experience. “
Roof was sentenced to the death penalty for the killings, and is currently on federal death row in Indiana.