Victims' families and survivors of S.C. gunman Dylann Roof's massacre reach $88M settlement with DOJ

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The Department of Justice will pay $88 million to the survivors and families of victims shot by racist gunman Dylann Roof in a South Carolin church. A faulty background check was blamed for allowing Roof to possess the firearm he used in the June 2015 massacre that left nine people dead.

Attorney Bakari Sellers, who negotiated the settlement, said the number 88 is a code for white supremacists that also represents the number of bullets Roof said he had in his possession when he killed worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. The letter H is the eighth letter of the alphabet and is an abbreviation for “Heil Hitler” when it appears in duplicate.

Victims’ families and survivors of S.C. gunman Dylann Roof’s massacre reach $88M settlement with DOJ
© Pool Dylan Roof (C), the suspect in the mass shooting that left nine dead in a Charleston church last month, appears in court July 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.

Dylan Roof (C), the suspect in the mass shooting that left nine dead in a Charleston church last month, appears in court July 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. (Pool/)

That settlement includes $63 million for the families of those killed and $25 million for survivors of the tragedy. The DOJ stated that breakdown awards roughly $7 million per claimant, with survivors being paid $5 million each.

Sellers called the payout a “big F-you” to racists that will held build “generational wealth in these Black communities” following what he described as “one of the most horrific race crimes in the country.”

Nearly four months prior to his rampage, Roof was busted on a drug possession charge that should have prevented him from passing a background check. But due to a series of administrative errors, the 21-year-old bigot was able to procure a .45 caliber Glock in April 2015. Roof became the first person in the U.S. to be sentenced to death for a federal hate crime in 2017. He unsuccessfully appealed that ruling in August.

Roof was convicted of entering the predominantly Black church where his shooting spree occurred during a Bible study session during the evening of June 17, 2015, engaging with worshippers, then opening fire on the dozen people who’d welcomed him.

Among those killed was Rev. Clementa Pinckney. His daughter Eliana Pinckney, who was 11 when her father was killed, told the Associated Press that she hopes her father’s life will inspire people even though he’s no longer preaching.

“I’ve done whatever I can to keep his memory alive and to carry on his legacy throughout my life,” she said.

Sellers said the settlement is still pending a judge’s approval. He hopes it brings the victims’ families some relief.

“All nine of these families have been so strong, and they deserve this closure,” he said. “Of course we wanted more, but this is just, and this is justice, and finally, these families can say that they got it.”

Relatives of Charleston shooting victims offer forgiveness to Dylann Roof in first court appearance: ‘Their legacies will live in love, so hate won’t win’

Some of those family members granted Roof forgiveness after the killings. That included Bethane Middleton-Brown, the sister of slain Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, who said Roof’s final judgement is yet to come.

“We have no room for hate, so we have to forgive,” she said. “I also thank God that I won’t be around when your judgment comes from him.”

The case against the Federal government had been set aside after a judge ruled an examiner had followed protocol, but blamed “abysmally poor policy choices” for the way the national database for firearm background checks operated. A federal appeals court put the case back into play in Aug. 2019. The FBI had acknowledged Roof should not have been able to purchase a firearm. He was able to pick-up the weapon he bought after a three day waiting period.

South Carolina state Sen. Gerald Malloy, who represented the family of Pastor Pinckney, said in 2019 that the Feds bear some responsibility for Roof’s crimes.

“At the end of the day, the bottom line is, had they followed their own procedures, then Mr. Roof would not have been able to purchase this gun and we would have been able to save nine innocent lives and the injury to the other victims,” he claimed.

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