Report: Charleston Church shooter to plead guilty in state trial

Dylann Roof, who gunned down nine at a South Carolina church in 2015, will plead guilty to murder charges, according to a report from Reuters published Friday.

Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said the decision is part of a plea agreement with state prosecutors to take the death penalty off the table. Roof is scheduled to enter the plea next month.

Roof was sentenced to death during his federal trial in January after jurors found the self-proclaimed white supremacist guilty of murder and hate crimes stemming from the June 17, 2015 attack at  Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Investigators said Roof targeted the historically black church with the intention of starting a race war and chose to act during a bible study that evening, firing more than 70 rounds at parishioners. He expressed no remorse for his actions during trial proceedings last year.

“In my (FBI confession) tape I told them I had to. But it’s not true: I didn’t have to. No one made me,” Roof told jurors in a five minute closing statement at his federal trial. “What I meant was: I felt like I had to do it. I still feel like I have to do it.”

Last week a federal judge ruled against the FBI’s motion to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit brought by surviving family members who allege the agency’s negligence in the background check process allowed Roof to buy the .45-caliber Glock handgun he used in the shooting.

In the weeks after the shooting, FBI Director James Comey admitted the agency should have denied Roof’s background check application he submitted when buying the firearm due to the felony drug arrest on his record, however, clerical errors at the local level left federal agents blind to his criminal history.

The error spawned legislation around the country aimed at closing the so-called “Charleston Loophole” — a term popularized by gun control advocates in favor of extending waiting periods on gun sales beyond the current three-day standard. Gun rights groups argue closing the loophole doesn’t solve the record-keeping problem inherent in most state databases.