Leroy N. Soetoro
2017-11-08 18:42:01 UTC
The Air Force says it failed to follow policies for alerting federal law
enforcement about Devin P. Kelleys 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.
Kelley should have been barred from purchasing firearms and body armor
because of his domestic violence conviction in 2014 while serving at
Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Kelley was sentenced to a year in
prison and kicked out of the military with a bad conduct discharge
following two counts of domestic abuse against his wife and a child,
according to Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.
Initial information indicates that Kelleys domestic violence offense was
not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database,
Stefanek said in a statement released Monday. Air Force Secretary Heather
Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein have directed an
investigation of Kelleys case and relevant policies and procedures, she
Firearms retailer Academy Sports also confirmed Monday that Kelley
purchased two weapons from its stores after passing federal background
checks this year and last. It remains unclear whether those were the same
weapons used in Sundays massacre, but his ability to purchase guns at all
highlights the Air Forces failure to follow Pentagon guidelines for
ensuring certain violent offenses are reported to the FBI.
While military law does not classify crimes as felonies or misdemeanors,
Kelleys sentence was a functional felony conviction, said Geoffrey Corn,
a former Army lawyer and professor at the South Texas College of Law in
Houston. A separate law prohibits violent offenders from purchasing body
armor, which Kelley was seen wearing during the rampage.
Authorities say Kelley, dressed in all black and wearing a tactical vest,
entered the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church and opened fire with a
Ruger semiautomatic rifle. The AR-556 Kelley used is patterned on the
Lawmakers called on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to review military
investigative organizations and determine how many convicted former
service members the military has failed to properly document for the FBI.
Learning that this senseless act of violence might have been prevented if
only the proper form was filled out by military investigators was
absolutely devastating, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in a
statement. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said on Twitter he would call
on the Pentagon and Department of Justice to provide a clear picture of
where, why and how this process failed.
Corn said it appears there is confusion within the Air Force, and other
military branches, about only reporting violent crimes that result in
dishonorable discharges, which are more severe punishments under military
law than the bad conduct discharge Kelley received.
Either the Department of Defense is reporting these convictions, or
theyre not, Corn said. How is the federal statute going to be
effectively implemented if they arent reporting these convictions?
Texas state officials had said previously that Kelley did not meet the
requirements for obtaining a concealed handgun license, according to a
report in the Houston Chronicle. Kelley also claimed he had no criminal
background that would have precluded him from buying firearms, the
In the initial aftermath of Sundays tragedy, officials were searching for
answers about how Kelley obtained his weapons.
By all of the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have
access to a gun, so how did this happen? Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said
in an interview Monday morning on CNN.
[Texas officials say before massacre, gunman had threatened his mother-in-
law, who attended the church]
Sky Gerrond, a former Air Force security operations officer who spent
seven years in military law enforcement, said a dishonorable discharge may
have been a more appropriate punishment for the severity of Kelleys
crime. Had the Air Force court system handed down that punishment, Gerrond
said, it is more probable the details of Kelleys conviction would have
reached the FBIs database.
The Air Force does not operate prisons and instead sends troops convicted
of crimes to Army or Navy jails. Kelley served his sentence at a Navy brig
in San Diego. Navy regulations do not require a fingerprint card and
conviction summary to be forwarded to the FBI following inmate in-
Corn said inmates are briefed on the specific restrictions they face upon
returning to society. Gun ownership, he said, would be at the top of the
list for Kelley.
What do we tell guys like him when they leave? Corn said.
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