Air Force failed six times to re­port gun­man

Au­thor­i­ties: Dis­clo­sure could have pre­vented Texas church shooter from pur­chas­ing firearms

Texarkana Gazette - - METRO - By Nomaan Merchant

HOUS­TON—The Air Force failed six times to re­port in­for­ma­tion that could have pre­vented the ex-air­man who killed more than two dozen peo­ple in a Texas church from pur­chas­ing a gun, ac­cord­ing to a gov­ern­ment re­port re­leased Fri­day.

The Depart­ment of De­fense in­spec­tor gen­eral’s re­port de­tails Devin Pa­trick Kel­ley’s decade­long his­tory of vi­o­lence, in­ter­est in guns and men­ac­ing of women. That his­tory cul­mi­nated in Kel­ley’s Novem­ber 2017 at­tack on the First Bap­tist Church in Suther­land Springs, the church his wife and mother-in-law at­tended. The dead in­cluded sev­eral chil­dren, a preg­nant woman and a 77-year-old grand­fa­ther.

Kel­ley served al­most five years in the Air Force, dur­ing which he was court-mar­tialed and sen­tenced to one year’s con­fine­ment for as­sault­ing his wife and step­son. He was able to pur­chase four firearms af­ter be­ing dis­charged in 2014, three of which he car­ried into the church.

The Air Force was blamed im­me­di­ately af­ter the shoot­ing for not re­port­ing the as­sault to the FBI. The con­vic­tion would have been a red flag in the manda­tory back­ground check when Kel­ley tried to pur­chase a gun.

Fri­day’s re­port says Air Force in­ves­ti­ga­tors who spoke to Kel­ley failed four sep­a­rate times to fin­ger­print him and turn those prints over to the FBI. The re­port also says the Air Force failed twice to sub­mit its fi­nal re­port of the case to the FBI.

Air Force in­ves­ti­ga­tors were not trained to sub­mit fin­ger­prints or the fi­nal re­port to the FBI, the in­spec­tor gen­eral found. The Air Force squadron that in­ves­ti­gated the as­sault “used on-the-job train­ing as its pri­mary method of in­struc­tion for fin­ger­print col­lec­tion and sub­mis­sion,” the re­port says. “How­ever, this train­ing was in­suf­fi­cient and was not based on any es­tab­lished cur­ricu­lum or pol­icy re­quire­ments.”

The Air Force said in a state­ment Fri­day that “cor­rec­tive ac­tion has al­ready been taken.” It has re­viewed all case files since 1998, and “all crim­i­nal his­tory re­port­ing re­quire­ments that would pre­clude some­one from pur­chas­ing a firearm have been up­dated.”

Gun­men in many Amer­i­can mass shoot­ings have re­peat­edly been able to ex­ploit loop­holes or lapses in back­ground checks.

Fri­day’s re­port also de­tails some of the many warn­ing signs against Kel­ley.

His first wife, Tessa Kel­ley, ac­cused him of chok­ing her mul­ti­ple times and once hold­ing her head un­der a show­er­head and say­ing, “I’m go­ing to wa­ter­board you.” Water­board­ing is an in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­nique that the United Nations says is con­sid­ered tor­ture.

Af­ter Air Force au­thor­i­ties opened an as­sault in­ves­ti­ga­tion against him, Kel­ley was or­dered to be de­tained be­fore trial be­cause his com­man­der be­lieved he was “dan­ger­ous and likely to harm some­one if re­leased.” Kel­ley had searched on­line for body ar­mor and weapons, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Kel­ley was later charged with mis­de­meanor an­i­mal cru­elty af­ter some­one saw him punch a dog sev­eral times. He was also in­ves­ti­gated for sex­ual as­sault in his home­town of New Braun­fels, Texas, but au­thor­i­ties didn’t pur­sue the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in what the lo­cal sher­iff has since called “an er­ror.”

The re­port also says Kel­ley was rep­ri­manded in 2012 for us­ing a “dis­parag­ing word” against a fe­male su­per­vi­sor and then deny­ing it. Four years later, his for­mer su­per­vi­sor re­ceived a Face­book mes­sage from Kel­ley in which he used ex­ple­tives and said: “You should have been put in the ground a long time ago. Bet­ter hope I don’t ever see you.”

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