Verdicts & Settlements

DOJ agrees to pay $88M to settle suit over flawed gun check before South Carolina church shooting

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The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement to pay $88 million to settle litigation stemming from a 2015 mass shooting at a historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Fourteen plaintiffs had alleged that the FBI was negligent in performing a background check, enabling white supremacist Dylann Roof to buy the gun that he used. Roof was sentenced to death for the shooting, which killed nine Black worshippers.

The Washington Post and USA Today have stories; a press release is here.

Payments will range from $6 million to $7.5 million to family members of those who were killed and $5 million to each shooting survivor.

A lawyer for the victims, Bakari Sellers, told the Washington Post that the $88 million figure was meaningful because of its significance to white supremacists. “H” is the eighth letter of the alphabet, and “HH” is used to mean Heil Hitler, according to the website of the Anti-Defamation League.

Dylann Roof Dylann Roof. Photo from the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Richmond, Virginia, had ruled in 2019 that the federal government could be sued for failing to discover relevant information about Roof’s narcotics arrest within a three-day waiting period for gun buyers. Although the narcotics arrest would not have prevented Roof from buying a gun, his admission to police that he possessed a controlled substance would have disqualified him.

The government reviewer had contacted the wrong police department for records of Roof’s arrest because of a misstatement in a government database.

The FBI has worked to improve the background check system since the shooting, according to the DOJ press release.

See also: “Dylann Roof is convicted in church shooting; jurors deliberated less than two hours” “Judge tosses suits over background check of Dylann Roof, calls FBI explanation ‘nonsense’”

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