FBI Seeks To Dismiss Charleston Church Shooting Lawsuit

Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The lawsuit accuses the agency of negligence, but the organization says state and federal limits on background checks and local errors in record-keeping were the reason shooter Dylann Roof was allowed to purchase a gun.

The FBI has moved to dismiss a lawsuit that accuses the organization of negligence in the Charleston church massacre that took place last summer at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which left nine people dead.

Lawyers for three survivors and the estate of five victims argue that had the FBI done its job, Dylann Roof wouldn't have been able to purchase a gun. Roof, who had a prior drug arrest, was arrested following the shootings after telling a friend he intended to start a race war. 

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On Friday, the FBI responded to the lawsuit and denied any negligence, stating local record-keeping errors and federal and state limits on background checks prevented it from stopping Roof from purchasing a gun. Attorneys for the government wrote, "The shooting at the Emanuel AME Church was an atrocity of unspeakable proportions. The perpetrator's actions were despicable, but the United States is not liable in tort for the tragic death of plaintiff's decedent."

Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon told The Associated Press that a jail clerk's error, which was noticed within days, was not fixed in the state database. Two months later when Roof went to purchase a gun, the FBI noticed the drug arrest, but called the wrong agency to get his records. After three business days and without the proper documents, the purchase was allowed to go through.

Lawyers for the federal government added, "While the Brady Act authorizes the FBI to temporarily freeze firearms sales for three business days while it researches whether state or federal law prohibits a particular buyer from possessing a firearm, the FBI has no authority to prevent a sale if, after those three business days have elapsed, it has not yet found definitive information demonstrating that the prospective purchaser's receipt of a firearm would violate federal or state law."

Roof's federal trial is scheduled for November, with his state trial planned for next year. He faces the death penalty in both cases and murder and hate crime charges. 

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