The quiet town of Sutherland Springs, Texas, was rattled this week when a man, identified as 26-year-old Devin Kelley, walked into the First Baptist Church on Sunday morning and gunned down the congregation worshipping there, leaving at least 26 people dead and at least 20 people injured.
More information has surfaced about the shooter, including the fact that Kelley was discharged from the U.S. Air Force after he was charged with assaulting his wife and child. He was court-martialed on those charges, held in military prison for 12 months, and received a bad conduct discharge as a result in 2014.
Later that year, he was charged with an animal cruelty misdemeanor. According to the Denver Post, that charge was dismissed in 2016 after he paid a fine and completed his probation.
Former girlfriends have come forward about the disturbing and violent behavior they experienced after breaking up with him.
The Sacramento Bee reports that in a recent segment on TBS’s “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” Bee spoke about the connection between domestic violence and mass shootings.
“Mass shootings are scary and impossible to predict, except for this one big thing that’s a really good predictor.”
She cited “Everytown For Gun Safety,” an advocacy group, which conducted a study from 2009 until 2016. The group found that 54 percent of the 156 mass shootings that occurred during this time were related to domestic or family violence.
“An abusive husband and a gun is a deadly combination.”
According to an excerpt on the Everytown website:
More than half of the women killed with guns in the U.S. are murdered by their partners. Every month, 50 women are shot and killed in the U.S. by a current or former boyfriend or spouse. We researched mass shootings between January 2009 and December 2016 and found that 54 percent of mass shootings involved a partner or other close family member that was killed.
The Washington Post reports that domestic abuse is not a predictor of mass shootings; however, it has become a pattern:
Time and time again, spasms of violence in public places have been followed by investigations into the attackers and suspects. Many of those probes have unearthed reports of violence or threatening behavior against women in their lives. While research has shown that domestic violence is not universally a factor preceding public attacks, it has cropped up often enough following high-profile incidents to constitute a disturbing, recognizable pattern.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told CNN that Kelley should not have been able to purchase a gun in the first place. He said:
“So how was it that he was able to get a gun? By all the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun. So how did this happen?”
Business Insider reports that Kelley’s bad conduct discharge did not necessarily preclude him from purchasing a gun. Had it been a dishonorable discharge, he would not be able to legally purchase a gun. According to ABC News, there is speculation surrounding his assault charges — did it constitute domestic violence? — and whether the charges prohibited him from possessing a gun:
Under U.S. law, a person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is prohibited from possessing firearms, but it is unclear if there are exceptions in this case that may have allowed the purchase to go forward.
According to Business Insider:
[E]ven if the assault charges didn’t technically go down as domestic violence, assault alone can be treated as a felony, which should preclude gun ownership. And even if the charges didn’t go down as felonies, the twin charges carried a maximum sentence of over a year in prison, and therefore should preclude gun ownership.
When Kelley bought the gun used in the attack in April 2016, according to CNN, he indicated on the background check form that he did not have a criminal history. The Washington Post reports that Kelley passed a criminal background check this year and last.
UPDATE [11/8/17, 3:49 p.m. EST]:
According to the Washington Post, the Air Force admitted on Monday that they failed to follow protocol in reporting Kelley to the National Criminal Information Center database. Per the Washington Post:
The Air Force says it failed to follow policies for alerting federal law enforcement about Devin P. Kelley’s violent past, enabling the former service member, who killed at least 26 churchgoers Sunday in Sutherland Springs, Tex., to obtain firearms before the shooting rampage.
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek also confirmed that it was a conviction of two counts of domestic abuse against his wife and child that led to Kelley’s year in prison and bad conduct discharge.
Watch Samantha Bee’s segment on the connection between domestic violence and mass shootings here:
— Khary Penebaker (@kharyp) November 5, 2017