Texas church shooter escaped from mental health facility in 2012 | world news | Hindustan Times
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Texas church shooter escaped from mental health facility in 2012

Devin Kelley, who was given a bad conduct discharge by the air force after being court-martialled, escaped from Peak Behavioral Health Systems in New Mexico, months after he was accused of abusing his ex-wife and her child.

world Updated: Nov 09, 2017 08:56 IST
HT Correspondent
Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, of Braunfels, Texas, US, involved in the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs.
Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, of Braunfels, Texas, US, involved in the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs.(Reuters file)

The shooter who killed 26 people in a Texas church had sneaked guns into a US Air Force base and escaped from a mental health facility in 2012, according to a police report.

Devin Patrick Kelley targeted the First Baptist Church in the small rural town of Sutherland Springs on Sunday after a long-running row with his mother-in-law, who had attended the same church.

He was later found dead in his car a short distance from the church. Authorities believe he shot himself.

Kelley, who was given a “bad conduct” discharge by the air force after being court-martialled, escaped from Peak Behavioral Health Systems in New Mexico in June 2012, months after he was accused of abusing his ex-wife and her child, CNN reported citing an El Paso Police Department report.

Kelley was picked up after the health facility in New Mexico listed him as missing. At the time, police officers were warned that Kelley was a danger to himself and others and that he had sneaked guns into Holloman Air Force Base, where he reportedly also threatened his commanders.

More information has emerged since the shooting of Kelley’s dangerous behaviour, with the US Air Force acknowledging it did not share information about the shooter’s court-martial conviction for domestic assault with civilian law enforcement agencies. If that had been done, Kelley could have been stopped from purchasing the assault rifle he used in the shooting.

The lapse has triggered an investigation by the air force and defence department.

Kelley “was consumed by a dispute with his mother-in-law and spent time posting anti-God and pro-gun statements on Facebook in the months before the shooting”, CNN reported, quoting officials, acquaintances and former classmates of the shooter.

He sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law and messaged her on Sunday morning, shortly before he walked into the church with the assault rifle and 15 loaded magazines. Authorities believe Kelley though his mother-in-law was in the church.

Kelley had also previously attended the First Baptist Church but was not welcomed there, Wilson County sheriff Joe Tackitt said. Pastor Frank Pomeroy told officials Kelley "was not a good person to be around".

Kelley served at Holloman Air Force Base from 2010 but was discharged four years later after being court-martialled in 2012 for assaulting his spouse and child. He served a year in military prison before being discharged, according to an air force spokeswoman.