The Justice Department reached an $88 million settlement with the survivors and families of the victims of the 2015 massacre at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina.
DOJ announced Thursday that the family members of those killed in the mass shooting would get $6-7.5 million each and the survivors $5 million each. The settlement is one of the largest civil rights settlements in history.
In 2015, self-proclaimed white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people praying during Bible study inside the historically Black church. He later told FBI agents he wanted to start a race war.
Bakari Sellers, a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and friend of attack victim Clementa Pinckney, noted to reporters ― after meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland at the Justice Department ― that the number 88 has played a major role in white supremacist circles.
“88 is a weird number, because it’s enveloped in so much hate. Dylann Roof had 88 on his shoes,” Sellers said of the hate symbol, which is meant to signify “Heil Hitler,” as H is the eighth letter of the alphabet. “88 is steeped in so much white supremacy and hate. And so today we get to give … a big F-U to the white supremacists and racists in this country by saying that we’re taking this tragedy that they tried to tear our country apart with and building Black communities and generational wealth.”
The families and survivors sued the FBI in 2016 over the agency’s failed background check during a firearm sale, which should have stopped Roof from being able to buy the gun he used. Sellers credited Garland and Vanita Gupta, the No. 3 official at the Justice Department, for their work to bring a fair settlement to the case.
“They can’t bring my father back … But they’re doing whatever they can to acknowledge the fact that this hurts. This is pain that I’m going to have to live with for the rest of my life,” Eliana Pinckney, the daughter of slain pastor Pinckney, said at a press conference Thursday.
“As a young African-American woman, to see the government acknowledge the fact that racism still exists … and do everything they can to correct a mistake that happened is so important,” she added.
Roof has been sentenced to death for the massacre, the first such sentence in the U.S. for a federal hate crime.