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Charleston shooting survivors sue FBI for wrongful death

By Martin Smith
Dylann Roof faces the death penalty following the killing of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. He is pictured here in a mugshot from a previous arrest. Photo courtesy of Lexington County Detention Center/UPI
Dylann Roof faces the death penalty following the killing of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. He is pictured here in a mugshot from a previous arrest. Photo courtesy of Lexington County Detention Center/UPI

CHARLESTON, S.C., July 1 (UPI) -- The survivors and families of the victims of a church shooting in Charleston in which nine people died are suing the FBI, saying the agency's failed background check allowed the shooter to obtain a gun.

The plaintiffs filed a multimillion dollar wrongful death lawsuit Thursday over what they said was a clerical error that allowed accused killer Dylann Roof to buy the .45-caliber handgun used in the June 2015 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

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Filings state that Roof, 22, should never have been allowed to purchase a gun because he previously admitted to the use of an illegal drug.

However, due to a mixup, his background check was not completed within the three-day time limit required before gun store owners can legally sell a weapon.

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Once that deadline had passed, Roof was able to purchase a .45-caliber Glock in April last year from Shooter's Choice gun shop in West Columbia, S.C.

Authorities say Roof then used the gun to kill nine worshippers during Bible study on June 17, 2015.

Three weeks after the shooting, FBI Director James Comey admitted failures in performing the background check. He said it was related to incomplete and inaccurate paperwork.

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"They were looking in the wrong drawer," said Andy Savage, an attorney for several victims' families and survivors of the shooting.

Roof was arrested in February last year -- four months before the shooting -- after Columbia police officers said they found him in illegal possession of prescription drugs at a mall.

He is said to have admitted the offence, which under federal rules should have disqualified him from being able to buy a gun even though he was never convicted of the drug charge.

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Due to a clerical error, the FBI examiner who evaluated Roof's request to buy a gun never saw the arrest report because the wrong arresting agency was listed on the rap sheet that she reviewed.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel, who is presiding over Roof's criminal trial, will handle the wrongful death cases as well, court records show.

"The victims and families hope that by bringing these actions, they can shine a very bright light on these shortcomings and prevent other individuals, families and communities from dealing with unfathomable and preventable loss and injury," Savage said in an emailed statement on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Roof is currently jailed pending death penalty trials in both state and federal court on charges including murder and hate crimes. His criminal trial is set to begin Nov. 7.

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