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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Lawsuit Filed Over Charleston Shooting Fund

(CN) - The husband of one of the nine people shot to death at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston is suing the historic church over the donations that have flowed to it since the June 17 murders.

Cynthia Graham Hurd was among the attendees of a Bible study group allegedly slain by Dylann Roof in his bid to start a race war in the United States. Since that time, the church has received more than $2.2 million in donations, much of it intended to directly aid the victim's families.

Another $2.3 million has been collection by the City of Charleston through its mother Emanuel Hope Fund.

But in a complaint filed in Charleston on Tuesday, Hurd's husband Arthur says the church has "Neither been transparent nor forthcoming with information regarding the donations received in the wake of the tragic shootings.:

He is seeking a temporary restraining order and accounting of the funds "to ensure the intent of the donors is being carried out."

"Upon information and belief, Emanuel AME Church received donations and gifts not only for its own benefit but also for the benefit of the families of the deceased victims of the shooting," the complaint says. "In light of their receipt of these gifts officials with Emanuel AME Church owe a fiduciary duty to the Plaintiff as well as the other victims and their beneficiaries."

It continues: "Many financial donations were sent to Emanuel AME Church for the benefit of the family of Cynthia Graham Hurd and/or the Estate of Cynthia Graham Hurd and its beneficiaries."

Hurd says the church's pastor, Reverend Norvel Goff , has publicly stated that transparency is the best policy when it comes to the donations, but has not followed through when it comes to inquiries from the victims' families.

Hurd claims he reached out to the church "with the hope of opening a dialogue," but his correspondence has only been "met with silence."

He wants the money to be placed in a constructive trust where a proper accounting can be made, and for its dispersal to the victims' families.

In an emotional press conference on Wednesday, Goff said allegations of financial mismanagement of the donated funds are unfounded.

Goff referred to a local newspaper story in which concerns about the fund were aired as being akin to "pouring salt in an open wound."

"This concern is more than about me, it's how we behave and work together to make this community a better place," he said, adding "We can't do it based on lies and innuendos."

He said the situation the church has found itself in since the shootings is difficult, but that church officials have nevertheless tried to be as transparent as possible, hiring both an attorney, Wilbur Johnson, and an accounting firm.

Johnson acknowledged the accounting of the church fund has been slow, but he said the church is merely trying to ensure that mistakes are not are not made.

Goof said the donated money will be dispersed to recipients in four categories: the church, families of the nine victims, a planned memorial project and an endowment.

He said the funds will be held in trust until they are distributed.

Hurd is represented by W. Mullins McLeod Jr. of Charleston.

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