The US Air Force didn’t report Texas church shooter Devin Kelley’s domestic violence conviction to the FBI – even though it was required by the Pentagon – leaving the door open for Kelley to buy weapons, according to officials.
Fox News reports Kelley’s conviction wasn’t submitted to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Investigation Services Division for inclusion in the National Criminal Information Center database that is used to conduct background checks on would-be gun purchasers, Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said.
The Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations – the base where Kelley was stationed – was supposed to enter his information into the database, according to a statement released Monday night by the Air Force.
Kelley, who killed at least 26 people when he opened fire at a church in Sutherland Springs on Sunday, received a bad conduct discharge from the military in 2014 after being court-martialed in 2012 for assaulting his wife and reportedly fracturing his stepson’s skull on purpose.
He was convicted on two charges of domestic assault, served 12 months in confinement at the Naval Consolidated Brig in California, and was later given the bad conduct discharge.
At issue is the Lautenberg Amendment, enacted by Congress in 1996. The federal law was designed to prohibit people convicted of domestic violence from buying or possessing a firearm regardless of whether the crime was a felony or a misdemeanor.
The Air Force “has launched a review of how the Service handled the criminal records of former Airman” Kelley, Stefanek said in the statement. The statement also noted the Air Force will investigate all of its databases “to ensure records in other cases have been reported correctly.”
The Air Force said it’s asked the Pentagon Inspector General to “review records and procedures across the Department of Defense.”
Time magazine reports that 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley told his father he was “shot and didn’t think he was going to make it” before he died from what is believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
An autopsy will determine the official cause of death.
One of the men who chased and shot at Kelley following the incident said he grabbed his gun after his daughter told him she heard gunshots coming from the church.
“I kept hearing the shots, one after another, very rapid shots — just ‘pop pop pop pop’ and I knew every one of those shots represented someone, that it was aimed at someone, that they weren’t just random shots,” Stephen Willeford, 55, said in an interview with 40/29 News.
Mr Willeford said he loaded his weapon and ran straight to the church and began shooting at Kelley.
“I know I hit him,” Willeford said. “He got into his vehicle, and he fired another couple rounds through his side window. When the window dropped, I fired another round at him again.”
“I was scared to death. I was,” he said in the emotional interview.
It has also been revealed that among those killed in the attack, was the grandmother of Kelley’s wife, reports the New York Post.
The Sunreports the Mr Willeford had managed to shoot Kelley between his body armour, the bullet piercing his side.
Mr Willeford was joined by fellow local Johnnie Langendorff and the pair chased Kelley in a truck, eventually running him off the road. Mr Langendorff said Kelley didn’t move after that.
AP reports that Kelley had three gunshot wounds — one self-inflicted in the head and two from the armed citizens in the torso and leg.
Kelley had been discharged from the air force for bad conduct in 2014, following a 2013 conviction in a court martial on two counts of domestic assault.
The Trump administration said the air force didn’t submit Kelley’s criminal history to the FBI, as required by Pentagon rules.
The Wall Street Journal says this may be the reason why Kelley was able to buy guns and sail through the FBI’s background-check system in recent years.
The officials were not authorised to discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Under Pentagon rules, information about convictions of military personnel in crimes like assault should be submitted to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Investigation Services Division.
Kelley began amassing a gun collection in 2014, buying one weapon each year until 2017, according to authorities.
The man who authorities say carried out the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history had a rifle and two handguns with him. The rifle was a Ruger AR-556 rifle, which is capable of firing 30 rounds in under 10 seconds, according to the Daily Mail.
The semiautomatic weapon retails for US$799 (A$1044), but can often be bought for cheaper, reports Time. It is known to be easily customisable.
The rifle was found at the church, while the handguns were recovered from Kelley’s vehicle.
Authorities say they’ve collected hundreds of shell casings and 15 magazines that hold 30 rounds each at the church.
In Texas, you don’t have to have a license to buy or own a handgun, just to carry a handgun in public. You do not need a licence to carry a long rifle.
US President Donald Trump said the shooting was a “mental health problem at the highest level” and is adament it had nothing to do with America’s gun laws.
“We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, but this isn’t a gun situation,” he told reporters at a press conference on Monday.
Kelley faced domestic assault charges after he beat his first wife and cracked his stepson’s skull, reports the New York Post.
“He pleaded to intentionally doing it,” Don Christensen, a retired colonel and chief prosecutor for the air force told the New York Times.
Following the charges, his wife divorced him and the air force kicked him out for bad conduct, but he showed problematic signs well before that said a former girlfriend of Kelley’s.
According to the Post, Kelley tried to bribe girls as young as 13 to date him.
“He was very sick in the head,” Katy Landry, a former girlfriend of Kelley, told NBC News. “Years after dating me he would try to bribe me to hang out with him. He ended up assaulting me.”
Ms Landry said she met Kelley in church as a teenager, but it was not immediately clear when their relationship began or ended.
Another girl, Brittany Adcock, 22, said Kelley dated her for two months around 2009 when he was 18 and she was just 13.
“At the time I didn’t think much into it being so young but now I realise that there’s something off about someone who is 18 with someone who is 13,” she said.
After she dumped him, Kelley pursued her relentlessly, offering her money to take him back and even suggesting she live with him and his wife as a topless maid.
Lula White, 71, the grandmother of Kelley’s wife Danielle, was among the 26 dead after Kelley opened fire inside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, CNN reported.
“I have no doubt where she is right now. She is in Heaven laying her crowns and jewels at the feet of Jesus and celebrating,” the woman’s niece Amy Backus wrote on Facebook. “I love and will miss you Aunt Lula Woicinski White.”
It was revealed on Monday that Kelley sent threatening messages to his wife’s mother Michelle Shields, who is also a parishioner but was not at the fateful service.
Among the dozens murdered and injured, ranging in age from just 18 months old to 72 years, was Annabelle Pomeroy, the 14-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor Frank Pomeroy.
“She was one beautiful, special child,” Pomeroy said.
According to CNN, eight members of one family also lost their lives in the attack. Bryan Holcombe, who was guest pastor at the church, and his wife, Karla, were killed, along with their son, daughter-in-law Crystal and four grandchildren. Crystal Holcombe was eight months pregnant when she was killed.
Authorities say 10 victims remain in critical condition and four are in serious condition.
PORTRAIT OF A KILLER
The “deranged” shooter was militant atheist who ranted on Facebook about “stupid” religious people. He had also been charged once for animal cruelty after punching a puppy.
Kelley was described as “creepy” and “weird” by former schoolmates.
Classmate Nina Rosa Nava wrote on Facebook that the mass murderer used to rant on the social network about his atheist beliefs.
She said: “He was always talking about how people who believe in God were stupid and trying to preach his atheism,” reports The Sun .
Fellow user Christopher Leo Longoria replied: “I removed him off FB for those same reasons! He was being super nagtive (sic) all the time (sic).”
Speaking with the Mail Online, Nava described Kelley as an “outcast but not a loner”.
Another former classmate, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Daily Mail that Kelley “always crept me out and was different”.
Cord Eubank Brown said on social media that he went to high school with “maniac” Kelley.
He wrote: “There were people I knew who stayed away from this guy for many reasons, which all make sense now. He just requested me on Facebook recently.”