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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 Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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Mickey McLean

Mickey is executive editor of WORLD Digital.

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  • Paul B. Taylor's picture
    Paul B. Taylor
    Posted: Mon, 11/06/2017 01:33 pm

    This shooter must have had complicated psychological reasons for the insanity that caused him to fire upon God-fearing people, even during a worship service.  The question is, why shoot Christians while they are keeping the Sabbath?  I have observed and found a new behavioral phenomenon  that might shed light on this tragedy. It is anti-Christian psychosis.  For some reason normal and even very intelligent people have hatred for Christians that causes behavior that is not rational, but completely emotional, and it is symptomatic in socialists, especially.   The sad thing about this type of response to a reasonable faith is that, at this point, it is too evident in society.  In our public schools, teachers encourage it.  In our courts, judges are affected by it as they deny equal rights for Christians in the public square.  There is also the tyranny of the left caused by this type of psychosis as they will not allow Christians to live as they so choose by claiming discrimination in the face of what scripture plainly says about how we are to live.  There are numerous other examples in our culture that can be identified as anti-Christian psychosis, but perhaps the most evident one in the Bible is John 15:18.  Herein, Jesus says, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you." 

  • billybob
    Posted: Mon, 11/06/2017 02:31 pm

    He had a grudge against his mother-in-law, so he murdered 27 people at a church service? The “authorities” are purposely ignoring the testimony of an acquaintance of the shooter that he hated religious people.

  • CaptTee's picture
    Posted: Mon, 11/06/2017 03:08 pm

    How was someone with a Federal felony conviction (Air Force Court Martial) able to purchase firearms?  We don't need more gun laws if the ones we have are not enforced!

  • PaulC
    Posted: Mon, 11/06/2017 08:23 pm

    Amen to what others have written.  Capt T is right, and I add this:  The kind of gun control laws we have are adequate.  What is most urgently needed with them is a proper fear of Almighty God!  If gun control laws are enacted that prevent responsible citizens from owning firearms, this tragedy would have been worse.  That there was a man living across the street who owned a gun, knew how to use it, engaged the shooter, was willing with help to chase him cannot be ignored.  The man who owned a gun legally helped to stop the carnage.  Removing people's right to own guns will lead to the law abiding people not having them, and those who break the laws will not turn in a gun because its against the law.  This should be clear from this tragic example.  Why isn't clear to others?  

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Tue, 11/07/2017 01:00 pm

    Because the data CLEARLY indicates that the more guns that are prevalent in a society, the more likely people are to die of gun homicide. There are around 300 million guns in America, home to 320 million people, with about one third of households owning firearms. How many more do there need to be before your plan starts working? Haven't we already tried the "more and more guns" solution? So far all that appears to be happening is that we have WAY more shootings than any other developed country. You could say that it is impossible to cut way back on the number of firearms per individual, and that might be tragically true, but it doesn't change the fact that the idea that even more weapons will make us safer is simply not demonstrated by the evidence.

  • socialworker
    Posted: Tue, 11/07/2017 09:07 am

    It seems obvious to us that there is a spiritual veiling of the eyes and ears when the Spirit is rejected.  And, no matter how smooth the speech, hostility toward God as maker and judge comes through from the people that Paul talks about below.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Wed, 11/08/2017 02:00 am

    Hans, there is a lot more to the argument than, “the more guns, the more shootings.”  You, and Hillary and Barrack and Chuck and so on ad nauseum seem to think it’s true that “the more gun restrictions, the fewer shootings.”  Logical people see that the high firearms homicide rates in places like certain heavily firearms-restrictive cities—Chicago and Washington DC for example—prove gun restrictions alone do little to remedy the situation. 

    It actually has way more to do with culture than the number of guns. Example: Switzerland is possibly the most heavily armed nation on earth, per capita, yet their firearms homicide rate is incredibly low. The reason? The Swiss are raised to be very law-abiding people.  They raise their eyebrows at someone who dares to cross a city street when the “Don’t Walk” sign is flashing.  US residents? Not so much, we’re proud of our independence and disregard for authority. 

    Now, considering culture, in the US one must take into account that we actually are extremely diverse culturally. If one considers that within the US there are sub-cultures who actually consider killing and law-breaking as acts of manhood, one might understand the reasons that firearms violence is so disproportionately high in some of those aforementioned Chicago and DC neighborhoods, among others.

    And if one goes a step further, isolating the statistics derived from those high lawlessness sub-cultures, one finds the firearms homicide rate for the vast majority of the US is on par with that of the Scandinavian nations, who are much admired by liberals both for their firearms restrictions and their relative peacefulness.  (Those relatively low violence statistics are  currently changing, of course, with large numbers of immigrants from cultures with more tendency to violence)

    But of course, if none of my information fits the narrative you wish to pursue, please feel free to ignore it.  We all know that facts are really quite flexible things, in another certain sub-culture in the US. 

    And I’ll add, as a gun hobbyist and collector of some of the very firearms most hated by liberals, I would give them all up in an instant if you could convince me the result would be, never another church, or school, or workplace, or nightclub shooting.