In the six years since white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine and wounded five more Black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, there have been questions about how Roof acquired the gun he used to carry out the racially-charged massacre. 

Roof purchased the gun two months before the attack, but only because a clerical error allowed him to pass a background check he would have otherwise failed due to a previous drug arrest. While the error was found just two days after Roof was arrested, the Associated Press reported that “The change wasn’t corrected in the state police database of arrests. So when a FBI examiner pulled Roof’s records in April, she called the wrong agency, and Roof was eventually allowed to buy the .45-caliber handgun that would be used in the June 17 shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.” 

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As a result, the families of the nine murdered by Roof, as well as the five who survived his brutal attack, filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department, alleging that their errors had allowed the massacre to happen. According to the AP, the suit was initially thrown out, but later reinstated by a federal appeals court and today, an $88M settlement was reached, with families of those murdered by Roof receiving $63M, and the five survivors receiving $25M. 

Bakari Sellers, an attorney who helped broker the settlement, said that today’s announcement not only helped the families of Roof’s victims, but would also have a lasting impact.

“We’ve given a big ‘F you’ to white supremacy and racism,” Sellers told the AP. “We’re doing that by building generational wealth in these Black communities, from one of the most horrific race crimes in the country.” 

Sellers also said that the number 88 was “purposeful,” as “It’s a number typically associated with white supremacy and the number of bullets Roof said he had taken with him to the attack.” 

While the families of those slain in the 2015 attack have offered their forgiveness to Roof, the now 27-year-old white supremacist will face the death penalty for his crimes, as his appeal of capital punishment was denied back in August.

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