Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard, who survived the 2015 Charleston church shooting are shown. On Friday, a federal judge said plaintiffs' case against a failed background check on the shooter could proceed. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 10 (UPI) -- A federal judge has given the green light to a pair of lawsuits saying shooter Dylann Roof was illegally allowed to purchase the gun he used in the shooting at Charleston, S.C.'s Emanuel AME Church in 2015.
Judge Margaret Seymour ruled Friday that a federal agent failed to follow the agency's background check rules under the Brady Act, which denies gun purchases by someone with a felony. Roof was arrested for a felony drug offense a few months before he purchased the gun he used to kill nine people at the Black church on June 17, 2015.
Roof entered a Bible study class at the church and opened fire, killing the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Myra Thompson, 59; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; the Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Cynthia Hurd, 54; the Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74; Ethel Lance, 70; Susan Jackson, 87; and Tywanza Sanders, 26.
The U.S. government asked the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that it did not have a "duty to control the conduct of another." However, plaintiffs cited exceptions to this rule in instances when "the defendant negligently or intentionally creates the risk."
"Thus, according to plaintiff's, defendant's failure to exercise due care increased the risk that Roof would obtain a weapon he was not legally entitled to own and use the weapon to perpetrate the murders at Emanuel AME Church," the judge said in the ruling. "The court finds that plaintiffs have stated a plausible claim for relief so as to survive defendant's motion to dismiss as to this issue."
Daniel Simmons, Jr., son of the late Rev. Simmons; and Felicia Sanders, a survivor of the shooting, who lost her son, Tywanza, and her aunt, Susan Jackson, brought the complaint.
Roof, now age 26, was indicted in July 2015 on 33 federal charges, including hate crime charges, for the racially motivated shooting. In January 2017, jurors sentenced Roof, who publicly admitted to killing nine people, to death. He is currently on death row at the U.S. Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Ind. His legal team is appealing his conviction and sentence.