As details slowly trickled out this morning about yesterday’s mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, one glaring inconsistency quickly became clear: How did Devin Patrick Kelley – the deceased suspected shooter – manage to get his hands on the AR-556 rifle he used to murder 26 people (including up to 14 children) and and maim another 20?
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a morning interview on Fox News that Kelley had been denied a Texas firearms permit because he had been dishonorably discharged from the military. However, a clerk at an Academy Sports & Outdoors store in San Antonio where Kelley had reportedly purchased the Ruger AR-556 rifle told reporters that Kelley had obtained the gun legally, and had checked off in his paperwork that he had no criminal history or history of mental illness that would disqualify him from obtaining a license for the firearm.
Since Kelley should’ve been prohibited from legally possessing a firearm because of his criminal history in the military, the question of just how Kelley came into possession of the firearm perplexed reporters, investigators and the public.
But in a stunning revelation, the Air Force cleared up any lingering confusion by admitting on Monday that it had failed to enter Kelley’s domestic violence court-martial into a federal database that could have blocked him from buying the rifle – something that could’ve potentially prevented the shooting.
The Air Force has reportedly launched a review into how the records were handled, according to the New York Times.
The conviction of the gunman, Devin P. Kelley, for domestic assault on his wife and infant stepson – he had cracked the child’s skull – should have stopped Mr. Kelley from legally purchasing the military-style rifle and three other guns he bought in the last four years. But that information was never entered by the Air Force into the federal database for background checks on gun purchasers, the service said.
“The Air Force has launched a review of how the service handled the criminal records of former Airman Devin P. Kelley following his 2012 domestic violence conviction,” the Air Force said in a statement. “Federal law prohibited him from buying or possessing firearms after this conviction.”
The statement said that Heather Wilson, the Air Force secretary, and Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, had ordered the Air Force inspector general to work with the Pentagon’s inspector general to “conduct a complete review of the Kelley case and relevant policies and procedures.”
The Air Force also said that it was looking into whether other convictions had been improperly left unreported. “The service will also conduct a comprehensive review of Air Force databases to ensure records in other cases have been reported correctly,” the statement said.
Other details about the killings emerged on Monday, including clues about Kelley’s motive. Local law enforcement officials said that he may have been driven by anger toward his estranged wife’s family, a fitting end to a life punctuated by eruptions of domestic rage.
In addition to his court-martial, in which his previous wife was the victim, Kelley had been investigated on a rape complaint, though he was not charged and his relationship to the victim was unclear. His current wife’s mother attended First Baptist Church, investigators confirmed Monday.
The New York Post reported that Kelley was “a wannabe tough guy who worked dead-end jobs, dated underage girls – and beat his infant stepson so badly he broke the child’s skull.”
“He pled to intentionally doing it,” Don Christensen, a retired colonel and chief prosecutor for the Air Force.
Kelley also reportedly dated underage girls, whom he stalked and harassed.
One of his exes, Brittany Adcock, now 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 realize that there’s something off about someone who is 18 with someone who is 13,” she said.
Kelley became so desperate after the 13-year-old dumped him that he offered her money to get back together, she said.
He even crudely suggested the girl move in with him and his wife — an offer that came with a twisted string attached.
“One time he told me I should move in with him and his wife and that he would take care of me as long as I walked around topless,” Adcock said.
Kelley graduated from New Braunfels High School in 2009, according to a now-deleted LinkedIn page where he claimed to have attended the school for six years.
Also in 2012, he was charged with animal cruelty for beating a puppy while he lived in a Colorado trailer park.
Kelley died after sustaining three gunshot wounds, including one that was self-inflicted.
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