Texas church shooter’s assault conviction missing from federal database
by Onize Ohikere & Mickey McLean
Posted 11/06/17, 06:47 pm
UPDATE: Texas church shooter Devin Patrick Kelley’s record of domestic violence should have prohibited him from owning firearms. Kelley was convicted in 2012 while serving in the Air Force for assaulting his then-wife and stepson, which led to a court-martial and a 12-month jail sentence. According to an NPR report, federal law prohibits anyone convicted of “a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” or a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” from possessing a firearm. Retired Col. Don Christensen, who was the chief prosecutor for the Air Force at the time of Kelley’s court-martial, told NPR that both categories disqualified Kelley. (Kelley’s bad conduct discharge from the Air Force, unlike a dishonorable discharge, did not disqualify him from weapons ownership.) A Pentagon official told NPR reporter Tom Bowman that neither Kelley’s arrest nor his conviction was ever listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the database gun sellers use to determine whether a person is eligible for gun ownership. According to Bowman, the Air Force is conducting an investigation. Kelley, who is accused of killing 26 people and wounding 20 others Sunday at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, purchased four guns over a four-year period, according to Fred Milanowski, a special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives field office in Houston. Academy Sports & Outdoors, which sold guns to Kelley twice in the past two years, said he passed his background checks.
UPDATE (1:21 p.m.): Law enforcement officials said Monday that the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Sunday morning stemmed from a domestic situation and was not racially or religiously motivated. Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said the suspect, Devin Patrick Kelley, had sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, who attended the church. At a news conference Monday morning, Martin added that Kelley appeared to die from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after his vehicle crashed following a high-speed chase by two civilians, but he added that a pathologist would determine the official cause of death after an autopsy. It was also revealed that Kelley called his father during the chase to tell him he’d been shot and didn’t think he’d survive. Fred Milanowski, a special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives field office in Houston, said officers recovered a Ruger AR-556 rifle at the church and two handguns—a Glock 9 mm and a Ruger .22-caliber—in Kelley’s vehicle. Milanowski said Kelley purchased all three weapons. Martin added that Kelley did not have a license to carry a concealed handgun but did have a “noncommissioned, unarmed private security license similar to a security guard at a concert-type situation.” Claudia Varjabedian, a manager at the Summit Vacation and RV Resort in New Braunfels, said Kelley had worked at the resort as an unarmed security guard for the past month and a half.
OUR EARLIER REPORT (10:20 a.m.): The Texas Department of Public Safety on Monday morning identified the man suspected of killing 26 people and injuring about 20 others at a church in South Texas as Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, of New Braunfels, Texas. Shortly after the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, law enforcement officers found the suspect dead in his vehicle at the county line following a chase by two civilians. Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr. told CNN on Monday morning that the gunman’s former in-laws attended services at the church “from time to time” but weren’t in attendance Sunday. Kelley served in the Air Force at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge in 2014, according to Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek, who noted that Kelley received a bad conduct discharge and served 12 months in confinement after facing a 2012 court-martial for assaulting his wife and child.
Editor’s note: On Tuesday, Nov. 7, officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety said their count of 26 deaths from the shooting included the unborn child of Crystal Holcombe, who was pregnant when she and three of her other children were killed.
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Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.
Mickey is executive editor of WORLD Digital. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and a dog/administrative assistant named Daisy.