Texas church gunman ‘bought dogs’ to kill them in shooting practice

In 2014, Devin P Kelley was also charged with misdemeanour animal cruelty in Colorado after a neighbour reported him for beating a dog.

world Updated: Nov 10, 2017 10:28 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Texas shooter,Devin Patrick Kelley,Texas shooting
Law enforcement officials continue their investigation at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church in Texas. (AFP)

The gunman, who killed 26 people at a church in United States’ Texas, claimed he had bought animals from a popular classified ad website to use them as targets during shooting practice, his former colleague at the US air force has said.

Jessika Edwards said Devin Patrick Kelley told her he was buying dogs as “target practice” from Craigslist while the two reconnected on Facebook in 2014, according to the CNN. She said she worked with Kelley at New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force Base from 2010 to 2012.

The 26-year-old private security guard burst into the Baptist church in Sutherland Springs on November 5 during Sunday morning services and sprayed bullets at the congregation also wounding another 20 people.

Law enforcement officials continue their investigation at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. (AFP Photo)

She said she doesn’t know if Kelley’s claims were true but she stopped communicating with him after his admission.

Edwards said Kelley appeared to be fascinated with mass murders even while he was in the air force. “He would make jokes about wanting to kill somebody ... And we would say ‘wait, that’s not funny,’” Edwards said.

The air force confirmed to television news channel that Edwards was stationed at the Holloman base at the same time as the shooter but did not say if they worked together.

Devin Patrick Kelley was involved in the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs. (Texas Department of Safety via Reuters)

Kelley had a history of domestic violence that spanned years before the attack and was able to buy weapons because the air force did not submit his criminal history to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as required under military rules.

According to police reports, the shooter sneaked guns into an air force base and escaped from Peak Behavioral Health Systems, a mental health facility in New Mexico, in June 2012 months after he was accused of abusing his former wife and her child.

Kelley was discharged by the air force after being court-martialled in 2014 for the assault on his ex-wife in which he choked her and struck her son hard enough to fracture his skull.

He was charged with misdemeanour animal cruelty in Colorado in the same year after a neighbour reported him for beating a dog. Kelley initially refused to speak with officers about the incident. He denied abusing the animal but complied with an order to pay almost $370 in restitution.

He was also the focus of a protective order issued in Colorado in 2015.

If Kelley’s past offences had been properly shared, they would have prevented him from buying a gun, the air force acknowledged on Monday.

Investigators also revealed Kelley had sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, a member of the church, before the attack and that sheriff’s deputies had responded to a domestic violence call in 2014 at his home involving a girlfriend who became his second wife.

Shot babies at point-blank range

A couple, who survived the attack, said Kelley went aisle to aisle inside the church looking for victims and shot crying babies at point-blank range.

Rosanne Solis and Joaquin Ramirez were sitting near the entrance to the First Baptist Church when they heard what sounded like firecrackers and realised someone was shooting at the tiny wood-frame building.

In an interview with San Antonio television station KSAT, Solis said congregants began screaming and dropped to the floor. She could see bullets flying into the carpet and fellow worshippers falling down, bloodied, after getting hit.

For a moment, the attack seemed to have stopped and worshippers thought that police had arrived to confront the gunman. But then he entered the church and resumed “shooting hard” at helpless families, Solis said.

The gunman checked each aisle for more victims, including babies who cried out amid the noise and smoke, Ramirez said.

Investigators believe Kelley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was chased by bystanders, one of whom was armed, and crashed his car.

(With AP inputs)

First Published: Nov 10, 2017 09:22 IST