Federal judge finds Air Force ‘60% responsible’ for 2017 Texas church massacre

A Texas federal judge ruled Tuesday that the US Air Force is “60 [percent] responsible” for the 2017 mass shooting at a Texas church because it failed to report the gunman’s criminal history.

Devin Kelley killed 25 people — including several children and a pregnant woman — when he opened fire during a Sunday service at the First Baptist Church in the town of Sutherland Springs on Nov. 5, 2017. Kelley died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound while fleeing the scene pursued by two men. The slaughter is the worst mass shooting in the history of the Lone Star State.

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez wrote that “no other individual — not even Kelley’s own parents or partners — knew as much as the United States about the violence that Devin Kelley had threatened to commit and was capable of committing.”

Devin Kelley, who killed churchgoers in Sutherland Springs, Texas in 2017.
Devin Kelley, who killed churchgoers in Sutherland Springs, Texas in 2017.
Texas Department of Public Safety via AP, File

Kelley had served nearly five years in the Air Force before being discharged in 2014 for bad conduct, after he was convicted of assaulting a former wife and stepson, cracking the child’s skull. He was also court-martialed for the same offense in 2012 and sentenced to a year in military prison.

The Air Force previously acknowledged that it failed to submit information about Kelley’s convictions to an FBI database, a move that could have prevented him from buying weapons from licensed gun dealers as well as possessing body armor.

In his ruling, Rodriguez found it “more likely than not that Kelley would have been deterred from carrying out the Church shooting” had that step been taken.

The decision was in response to a series of lawsuits brought against the federal government by survivors of the shooting and relatives of the victims. The judge ordered a later trial to assess damages owed to the families.

A Pentagon inspector general’s report released late in 2018 found that the Air Force failed four separate times to fingerprint Kelley and turn those prints over to the FBI. The report also found the Air Force failed twice to submit its final report of the case to the FBI. Investigators, the watchdog found, were not trained to perform either duty.

The Air Force said at the time that “corrective action has already been taken” and “all criminal history reporting requirements that would preclude someone from purchasing a firearm have been updated.”

With Post wires

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