Pentagon has known of crime reporting lapses for 20 years
The Pentagon has known for at least two decades about failures to give military criminal history information to the FBI, including the type of information that the Air Force did report about the Texas church gunman who had assaulted his wife and stepson while an airman.
The Air Force lapse in the Devin P. Kelley case, which is now under review by the Pentagon's inspector general, made it possible for him to buy guns before his attack Sunday at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Twenty-six people were killed, including multiple members of some families. About 20 other people were wounded.
New details emerged, meanwhile, about his troubled Air Force career. In 2012, several months before his conviction in the domestic violence case, Kelley escaped from a civilian mental health centre where he had been placed by the Air Force for treatment, according to Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek. She confirmed a Houston TV station report that was based on an El Paso, Texas, police report. Stefanek said privacy laws prohibited her from saying what Kelley was being treated for.
KPRC-TV also reported that the police officers who detained Kelley at an El Paso bus terminal after his escape were told that he had previously been caught sneaking firearms on to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, where he was stationed, and that he planned to carry out death threats against his military superiors. Stefanek said she could not confirm those details.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he was appalled at the Air Force mistake and was unsatisfied by its plans to investigate the matter.
"I don't believe the Air Force should be left to self-police after such tragic consequences," he said, adding that he fears that the failure to report domestic violence convictions may be more widespread.