Relatives of those killed in the Charleston church massacre have hit out at religious officials after it was revealed they will keep more than half of the money donated in the wake of the shootings.
Of the nearly $3.3million received after the massacre in June 2015, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church gave $1.5million to survivors and the victims’ families – but will keep $1.8million.
Rev. Sharon Risher, whose 70-year-old mother Ethel Lance died in the shooting, told The Post and Courier that church officials are ‘continuing to disrespect the families’ of victims.
Relatives had already launched a lawsuit against Emanuel AME attempting to force officials to reveal how they were handling the donations after accusations of a lack of transparency.
Families had also complained that mail addressed to them which had passed through the church was given to them after being opened without their permission.
Arthur Hurd, whose librarian wife Cynthia was shot dead in the attack, accused church staff of opening envelopes addressed to victims and removing cash and checks.
His lawsuit was eventually dismissed, though it only looked at money church officials put into its Moving Forward Fund.
Wilbur Johnson, the attorney for Emanuel AME, said donors only specified that $280,000 should be sent to the victims, leaving it up to church officials to distribute the rest.
He added that the church decided to add more than $1million to that total before distributing it to survivors and victims this week.
Johnson said the remaining money, which was donated from around the world following the massacre, will be used for building maintenance, an endowment and scholarships.
Andy Savage, an attorney who represents several victims’ families and survivors Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard, said that notes received with the checks were cold and impersonal.
He added that nowhere in the brief note did it explain how much money the church had collected, how it had divided the cash up, and did not reveal that the church was keeping some for itself.
Dylann Roof is due to stand trial in January over the killings, which police say were racially motivated.
The 22-year-old was going to be tried this year but his lawyers asked for an extension in order to fully prepare their defense.
Roof is accused of shooting nine dead, including church’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, in downtown Charleston on June 17 last year.
Charleston County Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said last year that she will seek the death penalty.
Via Daily Mail