Judge dismisses lawsuits from Charleston church shooting victims filed against the FBI

Updated: Jun. 19, 2018 at 4:16 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A federal court judge in Charleston has ruled that the Emanuel Nine lawsuits against the FBI will be thrown out.

Judge Richard Gergel cited the FBI's recommendation and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in his ruling handed down Tuesday. The act provides specific provisions which protect the federal government and gives them immunity from such lawsuits.

The lawsuits from victims were filed in July 2016, and accused the federal government of making errors in its background check of Dylann Roof that allowed him to buy the .45 caliber handgun he used in the June 2015 shooting.

The sale of the handgun to Roof was completed on April 14, 2015, roughly 1.5 months after he was charged for possession of a schedule III drug in February 2015, a charge which would have restricted him from purchasing the gun.

Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon told The Associated Press in the summer of 2015 that a clerk entered incorrect information for Roof's prior drug arrest, which prevented an FBI examiner from finding the arrest details when Roof tried to buy a gun.

Even though he sided with the federal government, citing other case law as well, that didn't stop Gergel from also criticizing the federal background check system and trumpeting some successes of the lawsuit.

"The record reveals that the FBI's background check system is disturbingly superficial, excessively micromanaged by rigid standard operating procedures, and obstructed by policies that deny the overworked and overburdened examiners access to the most comprehensive law enforcement federal database," Gergel said in the decision.

"The glaring weaknesses revealed in the background check system, however, are the function of distinct policy choices made by the FBI, not violations of specific legal standards," he concluded.

Gergel's decision comes just two days after the third anniversary of the shooting. The suits were initially filed on behalf of the estates of Ethyl Lance, Tywanza Sanders, Susie Jackson and Myra Thompson, all of whom died in the shooting. Suits were also filed by survivors Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard and a juvenile, all of whom were present in the basement of the church when Roof opened fire.

Copyright 2018 WCSC. All rights reserved.