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The families of the nine Black churchgoers shot and killed by a self-proclaimed white supremacist have settled a lawsuit against the United States Department of Justice. The survivors sued the government in 2016 because the shooter was able to purchase a firearm despite a prior criminal record which should have prohibited the sale. 

Nine African-American men and women who were attending a church service were killed by Dylann Roof in 2015. The victims were members of Mother African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

The families sued the government in civil court, in a case that had many twists and turns before an appeals court ruled the families could proceed. Victims and families will each receive between $6 million and $7.5 million per plaintiff. 

DOJ agrees to terms

“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,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

Meanwhile, murderer Dylann Roof was sentenced to die in 2017. He is the first-ever perpetrator of a federal hate crime to be sentenced to death. 

The survivors and families had a closed-door meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland prior to the announcement of the settlement with the Department of Justice.  Reverend Anthony Thompson, whose wife was killed in the shooting, said “The settlement is not bringing anybody back. The settlement will not bring satisfaction to my life or the life of my children more than the fact that this act, this tragic act — God made it something good and that’s what’s bringing joy to my life, the life of my children, our community and our state.”

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...