A mistake made by a clerk at the Lexington County Detention Center allowed Dylann Roof to buy the gun that police say he used to kill nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last month.
Roof was arrested in February on a drug possession charge at Columbiana Centre mall outside Columbia. Part of the mall is in Richland County and part is in Lexington County, which contributed to the mistake. The Columbia Police Department has jurisdiction at the mall and arrested Roof, but they took him to the Lexington County jail instead of Richland County’s, which is standard practice for arrests they make at the mall.
The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department says a clerk at the jail listed the arresting agency as the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department instead of Columbia police. A corrections officer caught the mistake a few days later and corrected it, but the corrected information was not sent to the State Law Enforcement Division, which forwards that information to the FBI for its national database.
In April, Roof went to a gun store in West Columbia to try to buy a Glock .45 caliber pistol. When the FBI contacted the Lexington County Detention Center as part of its background check on Roof, a records employee told the FBI that the Columbia Police Department was the arresting agency. However, a review of what happened after Roof was arrested for the Charleston murders showed that he had been charged under a different subsection of a state drug law.
The FBI had put a temporary hold on approving Roof’s gun purchase, but the agency has only three working days to deny a request. If the request is not denied, a gun store is allowed to sell the gun. The request had not been officially denied three days after Roof tried to purchase the gun, so the gun store sold it to him.
The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department says it reviewed its booking procedures and has made changes to make sure the correct arresting agency is noted in an arrest file. It’s also using technology to put safeguards in place to make sure everyone knows when a mistake is caught and fixed, so SLED will have that corrected information to pass along to the FBI.