Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, has distributed $1.5 million in donations to families of the nine victims and survivors of the mass shooting allegedly perpetrated by Dylann Roof on June 17, 2015, the Post and Courier reports.
The church received more than $3.3 million in gifts, most of which were unrestricted. It has decided to hold onto $1.8 million of the funds for building maintenance and to establish an endowment, a memorial, and scholarships in recognition of those killed. Another $78,000 will be disbursed to the Charleston Hope Fund.
Last week, victims' family members and survivors of the shooting received checks and formal letters from the church, although they were provided with few details about how much the church received or how church leaders came to their decision regarding the allocation of donations. When the details were made public, many families were angered that the church kept more than the amount it directed to the families of the nine individuals killed and the five survivors. It was the latest in a series of incidents that have left some relatives of the victims feeling slighted, the Post and Courier reports. In contrast, when city leaders distributed donations to its Hope Fund, then-Mayor Joe Riley, city attorneys, and others met with all the families and survivors to offer their condolences, discuss the details of allocation process, and answer questions.
A judge's order had prevented Emanuel AME from disbursing donations until a few weeks ago, when a lawsuit against the church was dismissed. The husband of victim Cynthia Graham Hurd filed that suit last fall seeking an accounting of the donations after attorneys for the families accused the church of not being transparent. The church initially planned to send the donations it received to the Hope Fund to be distributed using its formula. However, city attorneys declined to accept the donations due to the Hurd lawsuit and other questions raised about church leadership's handling of the donations.
"It's just sad how the church continues to disrespect the families," said the Rev. Sharon Risher, whose 70-year-old mother Ethel Lance died in the shooting.