Thu | Dec 13, 2018

Texas church gunman once escaped from mental health centre

Published:Wednesday | November 8, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Two women hug at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas yesterday.


The gunman who carried out the massacre of 26 people at a small-town Texas church briefly escaped from a mental health centre in New Mexico in 2012 and got in trouble for bringing guns on to a military base and threatening his superiors there, police reports indicate.

Devin Patrick Kelley was also named as a suspect in a 2013 sexual assault in his hometown of New Braunfels, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) from the scene of the church attack.

The records that emerged Tuesday add up to at least three missed opportunities that might have offered law enforcement a way to stop Kelley from having access to guns long before he slaughtered much of the congregation in the middle of a Sunday service. Kelley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was chased by bystanders and crashed his car.

The Air Force confirmed yesterday that Kelley had been treated in the facility after he was placed under-pretrial confinement stemming from a court martial on charges that he assaulted his spouse and hit her child hard enough to fracture the boy's skull.

Involuntary commitment to a mental institution would have been grounds to deny him a weapon provided that records of his confinement were submitted to the federal database used to conduct background checks on people who try to purchase guns.

Kelley was also caught trying to bring guns onto Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico when he was stationed there, according to an El Paso, Texas, police report released yesterday.

While in the military, Kelley, who was 21 at the time, had made death threats against superior officers, according to the June 2012 report, which also mentioned the military charges. He was eventually sentenced to 12 months of confinement for the assault.