Charleston families sue FBI over shooter’s erroneous background check

Outside Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, after the June 17, 2015, shooting. (Photo: Associated Press)

Outside Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, after the June 17, 2015, shooting. (Photo: Associated Press)

Victims and families of those killed in last year’s Charleston church shooting filed suit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation for not preventing the gunman from buying a gun despite a prohibitive record.

The FBI’s background check screening failed to recognize drug charges that would have denied Dylann Roof from buying the .45-caliber Glock pistol he would later use to murder nine people inside the historic Emanuel AME Church.

According to the complaint filed on July 1, police arrested and charged Roof for possession of a controlled substance — a charge he admitted to — on Feb. 28, 2015. Under federal law, a licensed gun dealer could not have legally transferred him a firearm.

Six weeks after the arrest, on April 11, 2015, Roof attempted to buy the handgun at a licensed gun dealer in West Columbia. The store contacted the FBI to initiate a background check. While the FBI identified possible discrepancies, the agency failed to verify them and permitted the dealer to complete the transaction after a three-day mandatory delay.

On June 17, 2015, Roof walked into Mother Emanuel and shot and killed nine people. He attempted to flee the state but authorities arrested him later that day in North Carolina.

During a press conference on July 10, 2015, FBI Director James Comey admitted to the mistake regarding the background check. He explained Roof’s arrest record had been incorrectly documented in the agency’s system and protocol to verify information failed to identify the prohibitive details.

Roof has been charged in both state and federal court for the murders. In both jurisdictions, authorities are pushing for a death sentence.

After his arrest, Roof, a white man who advocated white supremacy, admitted he murdered the nine parishioners at the historic black church with the intention of starting a race war.