Families of 9 killed in SC church settle down with federal government over gun

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WASHINGTON (AP) – The families of nine victims killed in a racist attack at a black church in South Carolina have reached a deal with the Justice Department over a flawed background check that allowed Dylann Roof to buy the weapon he used in the 2015 massacre.

The $ 88 million deal, which includes $ 63 million for the families of the victims and $ 25 million for the shooting survivors, was due to be announced Thursday in Washington, the Associated Press Bakari Sellers told Thursday on Thursday, a lawyer who helped negotiate the deal. .

The sellers said the number “88” was intentional. It’s a number typically associated with white supremacy and the number of bullets Roof said he took with him in the attack.

“We gave white supremacy and racism a big ‘F you’,” Sellers told AP. “We do this by creating generational wealth in these black communities, from one of the most horrific racial crimes in the country.”

According to the Justice Department, settlements for families of those killed range from $ 6 million to $ 7.5 million per claimant. Survivor settlements are $ 5 million per claimant.

Months before the church shooting on June 17, 2015, Roof was arrested on February 28 by police in Columbia, South Carolina, for drug possession. But a series of clerical errors and missteps allowed Roof to purchase the handgun he later used in the massacre.

The errors included the sheriff’s office’s erroneous listing as the arresting agency in the drug case, according to court documents. An examiner of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System found information about the arrest, but needed more to refuse the sale. So she sent a fax to the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office responded that it didn’t have the report, directing her to Columbia Police.

Under the system’s operating procedures, the examiner was directed to a federal list of law enforcement agencies, but Colombia’s police were not on the list. After trying the West Columbia Separate Police Department and being told it was the wrong agency, the examiner did nothing more.

After a three-day wait, Roof returned to a West Columbia store to retrieve the handgun.

The lawsuit was dismissed for a time, a judge writing that an examiner had followed the proceedings, but also lambasted the federal government for what it called its “extremely poor political choices” in the way it handles the process. national database for firearms background checks. The lawsuit was subsequently reinstated by a federal appeals court.

“The mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church was a horrific hate crime which caused immeasurable suffering to the families of the victims and 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 through a successful hate crime prosecution and today through settling the civil lawsuits. “

In 2017, Roof became the first person in the United States to be sentenced to death for a federal hate crime. Authorities said Roof opened fire during Bible study at the church, raining dozens of bullets on those gathered. He was 21 at the time.

Those killed included Reverend Clementa Pinckney, pastor of AME Emanuel Church, a state senator, as well as other pillars of the community. They all shared a deep devotion to the church, known as Mother Emanuel, and passed that faith on to their families, many of whom offered forgiveness to Roof when he appeared in court just days after the attack.

The FBI admitted that Roof’s arrest for drug possession should have prevented him from purchasing a gun.

Speaking to AP in Washington ahead of the press conference, Pinckney’s eldest daughter recalled the night of the shooting and said she was determined to preserve the legacy of her father, who died at age 11 years old.

“I have done all I can to keep her memory alive and carry her legacy throughout my life,” Eliana Pinckney, 17, told AP.

“Just to make sure that the memories I have with him can be shared with other people, so that other people are inspired by the life he lived and the life he would continue to live. ‘he was still there. “

The deal, which was reached earlier this month, is still awaiting judge approval, Sellers said.

“These nine families have been so strong and they deserve this closure,” Sellers said. “Of course we wanted more, but it’s fair, and it’s justice, and finally these families can say they got it.”

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Meg Kinnard can be contacted at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.

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This story has been corrected to show that the age of the pastor’s daughter is 17, not 11.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.



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