Air Force error allowed Texas gunman to buy weapons
Washington: A day after a gunman killed 26 persons in a small Texas church, the Air Force has admitted that it failed to enter the former service members domestic violence court-martial into a federal database that could have blocked him from buying the rifle he used in the massacre.
Under federal law, the conviction of Devin P. Kelley for domestic assault on his wife and toddler stepson -- he had cracked the child's skull -- should have stopped him from legally purchasing the military-style rifle and three other guns he acquired in the last four years, the New York Times reported on Monday.
"The Air Force 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 Air Force said in a statement.
It also said it was looking into whether other convictions had been improperly left unreported to the federal database for firearms background checks.
Kelley, dressed in black tactical gear and a ballistic vest, drove up to the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs at around 11.30 a.m. on Sunday and started firing inside.
As he left the church, Kelley was met by gunfire from a bystander outside, who hit him in the leg and the torso.
Kelley made it back to his car and led the bystander and another man in a dramatic chase that ended in a crash, with Kelley dead behind the wheel.
He had shot himself in the head, officials said.
Firearms retailer Academy Sports said Kelley purchased two weapons from its stores after passing federal background checks.
"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," Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said.
Senator Richard Blumenthal 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".
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.
"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 Governor Greg Abbott said in an interview Monday morning on CNN.
Law enforcement officials said Kelley may have been driven by anger towards his estranged wife's family, the final chapter in a life full of domestic rage.
In addition to his court-martial, he had been investigated on a rape complaint, though he was not charged.
An official said that the attack was not racially motivated and "domestic situation" was involved in the church shooting.
"There was a domestic situation going on within the family and the in-laws," Freeman Martin, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety said.
He said Kelley sent threatening text to his mother-in-law in the morning before launching the shooting attack.
"The mother-in-law attended the church. We know he sent threatening ... that she had received threatening text messages from him."
The attack in the church was the deadliest mass shooting in the state's history, Martin added.