U.S. sued over background check error in Charleston church shooting: newspaper

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 01, 2016 12:57 PM

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - Family members of the people killed in an attack on a South Carolina church last year have sued the U.S. government over an FBI clerk's mistake that allowed the purchase of the gun used in the shooting, the Post and Courier newspaper reported on Friday.

Lawsuits filed by relatives and survivors of the shooting are seeking millions of dollars from the federal government, the newspaper reported.

"At the end of the day, those who were wrong are accountable," one of the plaintiffs, Arthur Hurd, said in a telephone interview. Hurd's wife, Cynthia, was among nine people killed in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in June 2015.

"Our government should stand up and do for the people what is right," Hurd said.

Dylann Roof, 22, has been charged in state court with murder and attempted murder, while federal prosecutors have charged him with 33 counts including hate crimes, obstruction of religion and firearms offenses.

Reuters could not immediately obtain copies of the lawsuits or comments from lawyers representing the relatives and survivors.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman who declined to be identified said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

FBI Director James Comey has said that Roof was able to buy a gun in April 2015 because of errors in a background check.

The examiner who conducted Roof's federal background check did not see a police report in which Roof admitted to drug possession, which would have barred him from buying the weapon, Comey said last year.

That information did not come to light because Roof's record listed the wrong arresting agency.

The FBI runs federal background checks for gun dealers in about 30 states, including South Carolina. If the agency does not report back to the retailer with a yes or no decision in three business days, U.S. law allows a gun to be sold.

(Additional reporting, writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Toni Reinhold)