Roof never should have been permitted to buy the gun he used to murder members of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church because of a prior drug arrest, but the FBI botched the federal background check, enabling the purchase
By Frederick H Lowe
The survivors and estates of nine black parishioners slaughtered by white supremacist Dylann Roof during a church Bible Study can sue the FBI for not prohibiting Roof from purchasing a semiautomatic pistol he used in the massacre.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, on Friday issued a 66-page ruling overturning a South Carolina U.S. District Court decision.
The lower court ruling prohibited from going forward a lawsuit filed by the survivors and estates of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, against the FBI for failing to prevent Roof from purchasing a Glock semiautomatic pistol he used in the deadly shooting.
In 2016, survivors filed a series of lawsuits charging that the United States under the Fort Tort Claims Act (FTCA) failed to prevent Roof from purchasing the pistol because he had a prior arrest record for illegal drug possession.
The lawsuit charged that the FBI was responsible for administering the National Instant Criminal Background Check System which was enacted by Congress in 1993 under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. The law prevents convicted felons and other persons from purchasing guns.
Judges on the district court rejected the argument ruling that the government was immune from liability under the discretionary function of the Federal Tort Claims Act. The court also concluded the government enjoyed immunity under the Brady Act’s immunity provision.
The Appeals Court decided that the district court’s reasoning was faulty because the government can assert any defense of individual federal employees.
“The Brady Act does not shield the government from this lawsuit,” the Appeals Court ruled.
On June 17, 2015, Roof walked into a Bible study at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where he was greeted warmly by attendees.
After sitting a few minutes, Roof pulled out his pistol and began shooting before escaping through a side door.
Roof murdered Reverend Clementa Pickney, Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Reverend Daniel Simmons, Reverend DePayne Middleton -Doctor, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Cynthia Hurd, and Susie Jackson.
The massacre was set in motion in early April with the pistol’s purchase and maybe before with Roof’s deep hatred of blacks.
On Saturday, April 11, 2015, Roof sought to purchase a semiautomatic pistol from the federally licensed firearms dealer in West Columbia, South Carolina, according to court documents. The dealer telephoned the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Columbia, South Carolina, police had arrested Roof for possession of Suboxone, a Schedule III controlled substance. Roof did not have a prescription for the drug. He was processed by officials in adjacent Lexington County leading to a mix-up.
Because of a clerical error, Roof was given permission to buy a gun on April 16, 2015. If his arrest had shown up on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System could have immediately denied him the right purchase the gun.
The organization also could have delayed the purchase. The sale took place because after three days the gun dealer had not heard from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. After three-day waiting period, the gun dealer was able to complete the sale and transfer the gun to Roof.
On June 17, 2015, Roof walked into the church and murdered nine black men and women.
James Comey, then director of the FBI, said Roof was prohibited under federal law from owning a firearm because of his drug arrest.
“Dylann Roof, the alleged killer of so many innocent at the Emanuel AME Church, should not have been allowed to purchase the gun he allegedly used that evening,” Comey said.
Background checks have become a hot topic because of the recent spate of mass shootings, following the massacre at Mother Emanuel A.M.E.
Comey’s comments were overshadowed by news stories reporting that Emanuel parishioners rushed to forgive Roof who ignored them.
Roof is a hero to Patrick Crusius, another white supremacist, who shot and killed 22 people August 3rd at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart.
Roof is living on death row at Terra Haute, Indiana’s federal prison, where he is awaiting execution