Justice Department reaches settlement with families of 2015 Charleston church massacre

The Justice Department agreed Thursday to settle a series of lawsuits brought by survivors and families of victims of the 2015 deadly church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, according to attorneys involved in the agreement.

Nine people were killed when 21-year-old Dylann Roof entered Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church while studying the Bible and began shooting with a pistol. He later admitted that he acted in the hope of igniting a race war.

The families sued after the FBI revealed that its system of background checks had failed to detect a fact that was supposed to prevent the sale of the surface-to-shoot pistol. Bought a Glock 41 two months ago from a mall in West Columbia.

The lawyers said the settlement provides $63 million for the families of those killed in the shooting attack and $25 million for survivors.

“The mass shooting of Mother Emmanuel Amy Church was a horrific hate crime that caused untold suffering to the families of the victims and survivors,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday. “Since the day of the shooting, the Department of Justice has sought justice for the community, first through the successful prosecution of hate crimes and today through the settlement of civil lawsuits.”

Rove’s criminal history showed he was arrested on a felony drug charge in Lexington County, South Carolina, with the mayor’s office telling an FBI investigator conducting a background check to contact Columbia Police.

But the FBI’s databases showed no such department in Lexington County, only a different department – the West Columbia Police Department – that had no record of any arrest. The FBI said the examiner also called the Lexington County District Attorney but did not hear back.

Although a background check was still in place, Ruf got his gun after the three-day waiting period expired. Federal law allows the sale of the guns to proceed if the FBI does not block them after three days.

The FBI later learned that Rove pleaded guilty to a drug charge.

“We’re all tired of it, it just happened,” said FBI director at the time, James Comey, after discovering the bug. “We wish we could go back in time.”

In a ruling allowing the lawsuits to move forward, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit concluded that “there is no dispute that the information in this report was sufficient to establish that Rove was an illegal user of a controlled substance and could not lawfully possess a firearm.”

The FBI later said that the discovery of the error led to changes in how it screens for criminal history in conducting background checks.

Rove was convicted and sentenced to death after a trial in federal court. He also pleaded guilty in a separate trial in state court and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

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