U.S. sued over flawed gun background
check in Charleston church shooting
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[July 02, 2016]
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.
Wrongful death lawsuits filed by relatives and survivors of the
shooting and reviewed by Reuters allege that at least one of the
background check databases maintained by the federal government had
information that should have prevented the firearm sale.
"At the end of the day, those who were wrong are accountable," one
of the plaintiffs, Arthur Hurd, said in a telephone interview on
Friday. Hurd's wife, Cynthia, was among nine people killed in the
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in June
"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
Federal Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Susan McKee said the
agency does not comment on pending litigation.
The FBI runs federal background checks for gun dealers in more than
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.
FBI Director James Comey has said that Roof was able to buy a gun in
April 2015 because of errors in his federal background check.
The examiner who conducted Roof's check did not see a February 2015
police report in which Roof admitted to unlawful drug possession,
which would have barred him from buying the weapon, Comey said last
[to top of second column]
Arthur Hurd, husband of Emanuel Church shooting victim Cynthia Hurd,
sits beside a portrait of his wife at his home in Charleston, South
Carolina, U.S. June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill
That information did not come to light because Roof's record listed
the wrong arresting agency, federal authorities said.
Lawsuits filed by the shooting victims' estates on Thursday reject
the claim that the FBI did not have access to the arrest report that
would have required the gun sale to be denied.
"Federal law precluded the government from allowing the firearm
sale," said lawyer Mullins McLeod, who represents three of the
Emanuel victims' estates. "The victims' civil suit against the FBI
seeks to hold the government accountable to the law and demonstrate
it is not above the law."
(Additional reporting, writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Toni
Reinhold and Bernard Orr)
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