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Texas shooting: US Air Force could have stopped gunman from purchasing weapon

More information about the attack emerged on Monday, including details about the attacker’s past and motives.

world Updated: Nov 07, 2017 10:06 IST
Yashwant Raj
Crosses in a field on the edge of Sutherland Springs, Texas honour the 26 people killed at the town’s First Baptist Church on Sunday.
Crosses in a field on the edge of Sutherland Springs, Texas honour the 26 people killed at the town’s First Baptist Church on Sunday.(AFP)

The United States Air Force said on Monday that it had failed to properly record a prior conviction for a violent crime committed by the assailant of Sunday’s mass shooting in Texas. The oversight enabled Devin Patrick Kelley to buy the military-style assault rifle he used to kill 26 churchgoers.

In 2012, Kelley was convicted of assaulting his wife and infant stepson while stationed at an air base in New Mexico. He was sentenced to a year in prison and discharged from the Air Force. It was the responsibility of the military to enter this crime into a registry used for background checks on gun buyers.

“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 US Air Force said in a statement. “Federal law prohibited him from buying or possessing firearms after this conviction.”

Kelley used a Ruger semi-automatic rifle, an AR-556, whose design is based on the AR-15, a military-style rifle variations of which have been used in many recent mass shootings, including those at an Orlando nightclub last year and at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Authorities described Kelley’s motive as more personal than ideological. “The suspect’s mother-in-law attended this church,” a local official told reporters. “We know that he had made threatening texts and we can’t go into detail into that domestic situation that is continuing to be vetted and thoroughly investigated.”

Neither Kelley’s wife nor her parents were at the church, in the town of Sutherland Springs, at the time of the shooting. But The New York Times reported that a relative of the family had said that Kelley’s wife’s grandmother was there and that she was among the 26 killed.

The victims also included eight members of the same extended family. In addition to those killed, 20 people were injured in the attack, some grievously.

President Donald Trump, who is on a trip to five nations in Asia, told reporters in Tokyo that the shooting was caused by a mental-health issue. He referred to the shooter as “very deranged”.

Trump emphasized that the attack did not portend a change to his support of the right to bear arms. “This isn't a guns situation,” he said. “I mean, we could go into it, but it's a little bit soon to go into it.  But, fortunately, somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it would have been — as bad it was, it would have been much worse.”

The armed man, a local resident, was the first to confront Kelly as he emerged from the church. The two exchanged fire, Kelley fled to his car, and the armed civilian, joined by another man, gave him chase. The episode ended with Kelley shooting himself and running his car off the road.He was found dead inside.