Texas gunman escaped from mental health facility in 2012

Devin Kelley, who killed 26 people, able to buy weapon after federal database error

Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo, US president Donald Trump said that the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas that left at least 26 people dead was not “a guns situation", but rather a “mental health” problem. Video: Reuters

 

Devin Kelley, the man who shot dead 26 people in a mass shooting on Sunday, escaped from a mental health facility in New Mexico in 2012, it has emerged, as police continued to piece together a picture of the background and motivations of the killer.

Mr Kelley, who served a 12-month term in military prison for assaulting his then wife and her son, was moved to Peak Behavioral Health Services in New Mexico in 2012 from Hollomon Air Force Base where he was then working.

Local TV channel KHOU News first reported the content of a police report from this time outlining the circumstances of his escape. The report states that Mr Kelley was a “danger to himself and others” and had previously tried to smuggle fire arms into the Hollomon Air Force Base. The report also claims that Mr Kelley was “attempting to carry out” death threats to his military superiors. Later that year, he pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife and stepson and was sentenced to 12 months in a military prison.

Johnnie Langendorff, who pursued the gunman, is interviewed in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Photograph:Todd Heisler/The New York Times.
Johnnie Langendorff, who pursued the gunman, is interviewed in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Photograph:Todd Heisler/The New York Times.

The revelations came hours after the US air force admitted that they had failed to alert federal authorities about Devin Kelley’s domestic violence convictions, a move that would have prohibited him from buying the rifle he used to kill more than two dozen people on November 5th.

Indicted

Mr Kelley was indicted by the airforce for assaulting his then wife and his stepson in 2012. After his year-long stay in the prison, he was discharged from the airforce. However this information was not entered into the federal database that is checked when individuals purchase rifle-type assault weapons from gun stores.

“The airforce has launched a review of how the service handled the criminal records of former airman Devin P Kelley following his 2012 domestic violence conviction,” the airforce said in a statement. It also said it would review if any other convictions had been overlooked.

As the final bodies were removed from the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, police continued to search for information about Mr Kelley’s behaviour in the days and months leading up to the attacks. Though they have seized his phone, it has been sent to the FBI’s facility in Quantico, Virginia, for analysis. Concern has been raised by the FBI in previous mass murder cases about the difficulties in retrieving encrypted information. Following the San Bernardino killing in California the FBI engaged in a public debate with Apple about gaining access to information on the suspect’s phone.

Twenty-six crosses stand on a field representing the victims of the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Photograph: Larry Smith/EPA
Twenty-six crosses stand on a field representing the victims of the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Photograph: Larry Smith/EPA

Heavily armed

Further details also emerged about the chain of events when Mr Kelley entered the First Baptist Church on Sunday, heavily armed and wearing all black and a mask with a skull on it. Davin Brown, whose mother was shot in the legs, described his mother’s account of the attack. She lay cowering behind a pew and held the hand of a woman to her left who was being shot to death. The killer also shot at people as they tried to escape the church, she said.

Meanwhile, speaking in South Korea, US president Donald Trump doubled-down on his claims that Sunday’s mass shooting was not related to the issue of gun control.

Sonia Yanez and Laura Torres visit a line of crosses before a vigil for the victims of Sunday’s First Baptist Church shooting, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Photograph: David J Phillip/AP Photo
Sonia Yanez and Laura Torres visit a line of crosses before a vigil for the victims of Sunday’s First Baptist Church shooting, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Photograph: David J Phillip/AP Photo

Asked about whether tighter gun control was needed during a press conference in Seoul, Mr Trump said it would have made “no difference” to Sunday’s events, adding that it may have not made it possible for a local resident to neutralise the suspect with his own rifle. “If he didn’t have a [gun], instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead. So that’s the way I feel about it –not going to help.”