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Justice Department announces $88 million settlement in 2015 Charleston church shooting

DOJ reaches settlement in Charleston church shooting
Justice Department reaches settlement in Charleston church shooting 02:12

Washington -- Families and victims of the 2015 Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting in South Carolina and the Department of Justice have reached a multimillion dollar settlement over multiple lawsuits in which the families alleged federal regulators failed to prevent convicted murderer and white supremacist Dylann Roof from purchasing the gun he used to kill nine churchgoers. 

Under the 14 settlements announced Thursday, victims' families will receive $6 million to $7.5 million per claim and survivors will receive $5 million per claim, for a total of $88 million.

The families and victims who filed the 2016 lawsuits argued Roof's earlier felony arrest for illegal drug use should have prevented him from purchasing a .45-caliber pistol from Shooter's Choice in West Columbia, South Carolina, before he used the gun in the massacre.

At the time, South Carolina gun sellers were required to use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to clear potential gun buyers for sales. By law, if the check returned a felony in the potential buyer's criminal history, which should have happened in Roof's case, the sale was to be denied by the government regulator. 

But in Roof's case, as then-FBI Director James Comey admitted later, the bureau missed opportunities to flag Roof's prior arrest to the gun store, and inaccurate paperwork ultimately allowed the transaction to take place as the process continued. 

According to Comey, the FBI background check examiner who evaluated Roof's request to buy the gun never saw the arrest report because the wrong arresting agency was listed on the list rap sheet that she reviewed. This error allowed Roof to buy the pistol after 3 days. 

Days after purchasing the firearm, Roof, who was 21 at the time, walked into the church and took a seat with  the church's Bible study group before opening fire during the closing prayer, investigators said. Roof had expressed racist and white supremacist views and told the FBI he targeted the church because of its historically Black membership.

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