Survivors of Mother Emanuel Church Massacre Ask Court to Let Them Sue the US Government for Its Role in Putting a Gun in Dylann Roof’s Hands

A woman weeps outside historic Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, June 19, 2015, in Charleston, S.C., after Dylann Roof, murdered nine people there during a prayer meeting. Now, survivors and families of the victims are asking a court to allow them to sue the federal government over what they say was a failed background check of Roof, allowing him to get the gun used in the shooting.
Photo: Getty

Survivors and families of the nine people murdered at their South Carolina church when white supremacist Dylann Roof riddled them with bullets four years ago want the federal government to pay for the role they say it played in their loved ones’ deaths.

Lawyers for the group say a federal background check should have prevented Roof from being able to get his hands on the gun he used in the attack.


A lawyer for the survivors and families appeared Tuesday before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to ask the three-judge panel to reinstate their lawsuit against the government for the failed background check.

Attorney Billy Wilkins argued that an examiner with the National Instant Criminal Background Check learned that Roof had an arrest record, but failed to do further digging about what the arrest entailed.


“... what does she do? Nothing. She quits,” attorney Billy Wilkins said, according to the Associated Press.

Last year, a federal judge, Richard Gergel, dismissed the lawsuit, finding that government shield laws protect federal agencies and workers from liability. However, in his ruling, he criticized what he called a “disturbingly superficial” background check system.


It has been almost four years since Roof walked into Charleston, S.C.’s historic Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and massacred nine people, including pastor and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney.

Roof, an avowed white supremacist, was convicted and sentenced to die for his crimes.


The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not say when the panel would make a decision regarding reinstating the lawsuit.

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