(WASHINGTON) — The FBI says its background-check system failed, allowing the man who allegedly opened fire inside a South Carolina church last month to purchase the gun he used in the rampage.
Speaking to a small group of reporters in Washington on Friday, FBI Director James Comey said 21-year-old Dylann Roof of Lexington, South Carolina, should not have been able to buy the weapon that ultimately killed nine people, including the pastor of the historic church.
When Roof first tried to buy the weapon from a dealer on April 11, an FBI examiner spent several days determining whether the sale should be approved. The examiner missed Roof’s previous admission to drug possession during an arrest, which under FBI guidelines should have barred him from buying a gun, according to Comey.
Roof obtained the weapon on April 16.
“This case rips all our hearts out,” Comey said.
Comey’s admission comes on the same day history was made in South Carolina, where state officials removed the Confederate flag from state capitol grounds on Friday in Columbia.
The flag’s removal was prompted by the rampage inside the predominantly black Charleston church — a tragedy that renewed public debate over the significance of the Confederate flag and race relations in America.
Speaking at a memorial service for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, President Obama said, “For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation. Sporadically, our eyes are open.”
Roof had been “planning something like that for six months,” Roof’s roommate said after the shooting.
“He was big into segregation and other stuff,” according to Dalton Tyler, who said he has known Roof for at least seven months. “He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.”
Roof was initially charged with nine counts of murder and has since been charged with three more counts of murder tied to the surviving victims.
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