Texas church shooter caught sneaking firearms onto Air Force base, escaped mental institution, threatened chain of command: reportDevin Patrick Kelley (Texas Department of Public Safety)
The suspected shooter, Devin Kelley, was sent to the Peak Behavioral Health Services Center in New Mexico after beating his wife and stepson while stationed at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. On June 13, 2012, he reportedly escaped from the facility and fled to El Paso, which is along the U.S.-Mexico border.
El Paso police were dispatched to a bus terminal following his escape. Police were told Kelley was “a danger to himself and others as he had already been caught sneaking firearms onto Holloman Air Force Base,” according to the police report.
Police were told Kelley was attempting to carry out death threats that he had made against his Air Force chain of command, and was facing military criminal charges. A U.S. Air Force spokeswoman told American Military News that the Air Force could not confirm that Kelley was caught sneaking firearms onto base or that he had made threats against his chain of command, and the Air Force would not comment further at this time.
Kelley was arrested at the bus stop and was turned over to Sunland Park police officers.
Kelley received a “bad conduct” discharge from the U.S. Air Force after being court-martialed in May 2014 for assaulting his wife and child. He was also sentenced to 12 months confinement and two reductions in rank to basic airman.
However, the U.S. Air Force failed to send Devin Patrick Kelley’s conviction record and criminal history to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s background-check system, known as NICS, following his 2013 court martial, which is likely what allowed Kelley the ability to purchase a firearm. The military had not submitted Kelley’s name to NICS – the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and the reason wasn’t immediately clear.
Typically, someone discharged from the military for “bad conduct” is still able to legally buy firearms. However, under U.S. code, if Kelley were “dishonorably” discharged, he would not have been allowed to legally purchase a firearm, and this is documented on the ATF’s website.
While someone being discharged from the military for “bad conduct” can still purchase firearms, since Kelley was convicted of domestic assault in his “bad conduct” discharge, he should not have been able to purchase a gun. The Lautenberg Amendment from the 1997 gun bill, which is now law, says that anyone convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor is not able to own or purchase a firearm.
However, since Kelley did not make it into the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System), his background check cleared.
The 26-year-old shooting suspect who killed 26 people and injured 20 others in a Texas church on Sunday had been denied a gun license from that state, the governor there said on Monday morning. Since his discharge was for “bad conduct” and was not a “dishonorable” discharge, he was still able to buy firearms legally, although Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that Kelley was denied a gun permit.
Kelley walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday morning wearing all black, and he started firing. On his way out of the church, the suspect dropped his rifle and fled after being confronted by a local man who had grabbed his rifle.
Kelley was found a short while later, roughly five miles away, dead in his car from a gunshot wound, having crashed his car. It is currently unclear if he shot himself or a local resident shot him.
Kelley was wearing tactical gear and used an AR-15 gun.
This is the largest mass shooting in Texas’ history.
The shooting took place at 11:30 a.m. local time at the First Baptist Church at 216 4th Street in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Sutherland Springs is roughly 35 miles outside of San Antonio and has a population of less than 500 people.
Victims were taken to Connally’s Memorial Hospital. Twenty-three people were killed inside the church, two people were killed outside the church and another succumbed to injuries. The victims ranged in age from 5 years old and up.
This shooting comes on the eight-year anniversary of the Fort Hood shooting, when Nidal Hasan shot and killed 13 at the Fort Hood U.S. Army base; 30 others were injured in the 2009 shooting. Sutherland Springs is 150 miles from Fort Hood.
Kelley was a former U.S. Air Force E1 from 2010 to 2014, and he received a bad conduct discharge after being court-martialed in May 2014 for assaulting his wife and child. He was also sentenced to 12 months confinement and two reductions in rank to basic airman.
Since his discharge was for “bad conduct” and was not a “dishonorable” discharge, he was still able to buy firearms legally. Under U.S. Code, dishonorably discharged military personnel are not allowed to legally purchase a firearm, and this is documented on the ATF’s website.