FBI Director James Comey said Friday that Dylann Roof should not have been able to buy the gun he allegedly used in the Charleston church shootings, after an FBI review of Roof failed to bring up a report saying the accused gunman admitted to possessing drugs.
“We are all sick this has happened,” Comey said, as as he outlined a series of missed opportunities and incomplete paperwork that allowed the transaction to take place.
The problem stemmed from an arrest of Dylann Roof in South Carolina weeks before the shooting in which police say he admitted to possessing illegal drugs.
Under federal rules, that admission alone should have been enough to disqualify him from an April gun purchase. But, Comey said, the FBI background check examiner who evaluated Roof’s request to buy a gun never saw the arrest report because the wrong arresting agency was listed on the list rap sheet that she reviewed.
The transaction went through after three days because the examiner didn’t have enough information to authorize or deny it.
“If she had seen that police report,” Comey said, “that purchase would have been denied.”
Comey said he learned about the problem on Thursday night and that FBI officials planned to meet Friday with relatives of the nine victims of last month’s church shooting in Charleston. He said he had also directed an internal 30-day review into how the FBI uses criminal background checks in gun transactions.
Comey called the mistake “heartbreaking.”
His announcement came within hours of the Confederate flag’s removal from the South Carolina Statehouse. Families of the victims attended the ceremony.
Last month, a law enforcement source told CBS News’ Pat Milton that a .45 caliber gun was found in the car when Roof was arrested during a traffic stop the day after the shooting. Roof purchased the .45 caliber pistol with $400 his father gave him for his birthday, sources said.
Federal authorities have not said whether they will pursue hate crime charges against Roof.
Roof is next expected in court in October on murder charges.