On July 10, the FBI reported that background checks did not prevent Dylann Roof from acquiring the gun he allegedly used to kill nine people at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17.
FBI director James Comey said Roof went into a store on April 11, went through the background check, and when nothing turned up prohibiting him from purchasing a gun, he was able to walk out with the .45 caliber firearm used in the attack.
According to USA Today, Comey said Roof would not have passed the check if the background check team had seen Roof’s “felony drug charges.” However, the team made a “mistake.” That mistake was looking at the records of the wrong police department in searching Roof’s background.
The FBI searched the Sheriff’s Department in Lexington, SC, for indicators about Roof, instead of the Columbia Police Records. In so doing, they missed the “Columbia police report [that] included information that Roof admitted to drug possession.” Had they seen the Columbia report, it “would have triggered an immediate denial by the FBI NICS review process.”
Comey said the failure to look at the right police records “was the primary error in a series of failures that allowed Roof to acquire the weapon used in the attack.” He said the FBI “reviewer apparently did everything else required of her and more to vet the purchase.”
It should be noted that the FBI does have the option of extending an instant background check to up to three business days if needed to find all records necessary, and the reviewer in Roof’s case did just that. During the extended review, the reviewer “contacted the Lexington County courts office, which showed only that Roof was a defendant in a drug case that remained pending,” and that was “not enough to deny a pending sale.”
The review also tried to contact the Lexington County prosecutor’s office, “but received no response.”
The alleged Charleston gunman is only the latest high profile attacker to pass a background check and acquire a gun used in the commission of heinous acts. Others include Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi (Garland), Jared and Amanda Miller (Las Vegas), Elliot Rodger (Santa Barabara), Ivan Lopez (Fort Hood 2014), Darion Marcus Aguilar (Maryland mall), Karl Halverson Pierson (Arapahoe High School), Paul Ciancia (LAX), Andrew John Engeldinger (Minneapolis), Aaron Alexis (DC Navy Yard), Tennis Melvin Maynard (West Virginia), Wade Michael Page (Sikh Temple), James Holmes (Aurora theater), Jared Loughner (Tucson), Nidal Hasan (Fort Hood 2009), Jiverly Wong (Binghamton), Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech), Naveed Haq (Seattle), and Mark Barton (Atlanta).
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.