Sutherland Springs Church Massacre Followed Shooter’s Domestic Dispute With In-Laws

What happened and when in Sutherland Springs, Texas yesterday.

Devin Patrick Kelley had a history of domestic turmoil. It was the reason he’d been court-martialed, served time and discharged from the Air Force. And it was apparently yet another “domestic situation” that sparked yesterday’s mass murder and a Sutherland Springs, Texas church.

According to the Washington Post,

The massacre here that killed more than two dozen people, the youngest an 18-month-old toddler, occurred amid an ongoing “domestic situation” involving the gunman and his relatives, at least one of whom had attended the church, law enforcement officials said Monday.

While authorities have not publicly identified a motive for the attack, they emphasized that the shooting did not appear to be fueled by racial or religious issues. Instead, they said he had sent “threatening texts” to his mother-in-law as part of this ongoing dispute. She had attended the church, though she was not there Sunday when the shooting occurred, officials said.

So Kelley didn’t simply “go crazy.” He didn’t “snap,” deciding to embark on Texas’ worst mass murder. Yesterday’s massacre was something that had been brewing for a very long time.

Again, because of Kelley’s conviction on domestic violence charges and his incarceration while in the Air Force, he was a “prohibited person.” He couldn’t legally own or purchase a firearm. Yet he’d bought the Ruger AR-15 he used yesterday from an FFL, Academy Sports, and, while probably lying on the required form 4473, he somehow passed the NICS background check.

In fact, he apparently passed more than one:

Three guns were recovered Sunday, according to authorities: A Ruger rifle and two handguns, one a Glock and another a Ruger, inside Kelley’s vehicle. He had purchased a total of four guns during each of the last four years, officials said.

Precisely how Kelley obtained his guns remained a key question for investigators. Kelley had been court-martialed in 2012 and sentenced to a year in military prison for assaulting his spouse and child, making him the latest mass attacker or suspect with domestic violence in his past. He was reduced in rank and released with a bad-conduct discharge in 2014.

Exactly how he passed those federal background checks — when the state of Texas had enough information to deny his application for a license to carry a concealed weapon — is a question the FBI is no doubt working very hard to answer.

comments

  1. avatar Danny Griffin says:

    the FBI is no doubt working very hard to answer.

    Should be an easy and quick answer. All they have to do is check NICS. Takes a minute or two. Since NICS checks aren’t kept on file, nothing else needs to be done. Right?

    1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      If a BGC involved NCIC, there most definitely is a record of the check.

      1. avatar Danny Griffin says:

        They might have a confirmation number, but my understanding of the system is that they do not retain records of who was checked. As I remember it is in the law, because retaining a record of who was checked comes close to a de facto firearms registration system (who has guns, not necessarily what types).

        My point was all they need to do is check and see if he would pass. If so…

        1. avatar JasonM says:

          That’s not necessarily true. The database(s) they query have changed since that point in time. It’s possible that the update flagging him arrived after his purchase, but before today. It’s also possible that it never arrived.

          The NICS result should have a timestamp, as should all record insertions. If the query flags him based on data entered after the NICS check (or still doesn’t flag him), they need to investigate why the data didn’t update in a more timely fashion. If the query flags him based on data that was present at the time of the NICS check, they need to investigate why it didn’t flag him before.
          The root answer to either question is likely that the government is as good at data organization as it is at providing healthcare or delivering packages.

        2. avatar Danny Griffin says:

          Okay, I did some more checking on this. I was right in that the law mandates that NICS checks not be saved. However, that’s not the way the system was designed and it is currently operating in contravention of federal law. How did we find this out? Janet Reno said so. Now maybe they’ve gone back and retrofitted something to wipe out checks, but knowing the .gov, I doubt it. And since no one can audit the system, we’ll never really know if they are currently following federal law or not. And if they aren’t, what’s going to happen? Nothing. Congress won’t spend another $500 million to replace it.

        3. avatar Danny Griffin says:

          Want to see what the FBI website states (or at least did state):

          “…The NICS is not to be used to establish a federal firearm registry; information about an inquiry resulting in an allowed transfer is destroyed in accordance with NICS regulations. Current destruction of NICS records became effective when a final rule was published by the Department of Justice in The Federal Register, outlining the following changes. Per Title 28, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 25.9(b)(1), (2), and (3), the NICS Section must destroy all identifying information on allowed transactions prior to the start of the next NICS operational day…”

          Here’s the quote and legal cite:

          NICS checks are to be destroyed within 24 hours: “In cases of NICS Audit Log records relating to allowed transactions, all identifying information submitted by or on behalf of the transferee will be destroyed within 24 hours after the FFL receives communication of the determination that the transfer may proceed. All other information, except the NTN and date, will be destroyed after not more than 90 days from the date of inquiry.” 28 C.F.R. § 25.9(b)(1)(iii)

          https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/28/25.9

          Now are they doing it? Evidence points to “no.”

  2. avatar Chip Bennett says:

    While authorities have not publicly identified a motive for the attack, they emphasized that the shooting did not appear to be fueled by racial or religious issues.

    Right. Which totally explains why he chose to attack the family of his former in-laws in a church, instead of, oh, I don’t know… at a grocery store, ballgame, or in their home.

    1. avatar JAlan says:

      No, that can be easily explained by the fact that they were all there and unarmed. It’s hard to know when someone is in a grocery store, but Church goes on a schedule. I get that you really want this to be about his alleged atheism, but it just seems like it’s not. Please get over this fact.

      1. avatar Chip Bennett says:

        I get that you really want this to be about his alleged atheism, but it just seems like it’s not. Please get over this fact.

        I get that you really want this not to be about his confirmed atheism, but the actual evidence suggests that it is.

        This incident appears to have been borne out of a lethal mixture of domestic violence and militant atheism.

        1. avatar B-Rad says:

          So he’s now a raging atheist murderer. Yesterday he was a raging antifa commie. Yet he was a sunday school teacher just 1 year ago. His high school lady friends called him a weird christian fundamentalist.

          He wanted to kill his religious in laws, where better than at church they’re scheduled to go to? His flaw was texting them and warning them earlier in the day.

          He’s the kind of guy who’d beat his wife and kid, a dog. The BTK serial killer was a church leader, Eric Rudolf, a fundamentalist christian. Crazy be crazy, your confusing correlation with causation; or confirmation bias.

        2. avatar JAlan says:

          I have no reason to want it to be or not to be about his belief or lack of belief in a deity. I’m just pointing out that you really want it to be about something you not only have no evidence of, but have evidence to the contrary. If he did it because he’s a lunatic and also an atheist, then fine. That doesn’t affect me or my beliefs as I’m not trying to win points based on a mass murder, you know, unlike you.

        3. avatar Det. Nick Valentine says:

          No reason to believe it was based on religious beliefs or lack there of.

        4. avatar Danny Griffin says:

          Well, he didn’t shoot up a PTA meeting. Targets are chosen for a reason.

        5. avatar B-Rad says:

          Yeah, he wanted to kill his inlaws, his inlaws went to that church. Church services are scheduled, 50% of the population of the town went to the church.

          So, if I want to kill Bob, I could go to the PTA meeting, where I don’t know if he’s going, go to his barber, when he needs a haircut. Or, I could go to the place that Bob goes on Sunday at 12:30. But if I text Bob that I’m going to kill him today, Bob might just not go and do the thing, but I go, and since I’m a nutball, just decide that hell with Bob, I’m going to murder all of Bob’s neighbors, because that will show Bob.

        6. avatar Chip Bennett says:

          The part you (and others who want to ignore the plain-as-day motive) are conveniently forgetting/ignoring is that he shot many, many more than just his ex-inlaws .

        7. avatar Danny Griffin says:

          50% of the town did not go to that church. About 12% did. Also, his MIL, whom he was supposed to be angry with, wasn’t there.

          The first person he shot was the pastor. Also, everyone he knew said he kept pushing his atheist agenda on them. I read reports from many of the people that know him. Unfortunately we can’t see his facebook page because facebook took it down.

          Other people with personal agendas have shot in/at churches and only shot the person they were angry at (ex-spouse/ex-gf). People who attempt to wipe out the entire group have a larger agenda.

          Although at this time it’s not definitive, it looks like more than just an “I’m mad at my MIL” shooting.

        8. avatar B-Rad says:

          Actually not missing it at all, he didn’t shoot, kill, or give a noogie, to his inlaws, they weren’t there.

          He texted them yesterday morning that he was going to “get” them. They apparently thought it reasonable to change their plans, or wanted to watch the Cowboy’s game. But he damn sure went to the church with the intent to murder them, and just got on with the job of killing everyone in sight. He probably didn’t even notice until he was a couple mags deep. 50-100 people worship there on Sundays, so he definitely know that there were going to be bystanders, and he shot all of them.

          By your reasoning, the fact that he drove 35 miles, past 10, 20, 30 churches, but happened to go to the one his inlaws frequent, but it definitely was the church, not the inlaws, is pure coincidence.

          He hates the cans, get away from the cans….

        9. avatar Danny Griffin says:

          I believe he had a history with that particular church.

        10. avatar B-Rad says:

          Yeah, the history was his inlaws went there.

        11. avatar B-Rad says:

          New details of the killings also emerged on Monday, including a possible motive. Local law enforcement officials said that Mr. Kelley may have been driven by anger toward his estranged wife’s family, the final chapter in a life full of domestic rage. In addition to his court-martial, in which his previous wife was the victim, he had been investigated on a rape complaint, though he was not charged and his relationship to the victim was unclear.

          His current wife’s mother attended First Baptist Church, the target of Mr. Kelley’s rage on Sunday. “The suspect’s mother-in-law attended this church,” Freeman Martin, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said during a news conference Monday morning. “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.”

          “This was not racially motivated, it wasn’t over religious beliefs, it was a domestic situation going on,” Mr. Martin added.

          Mr. Kelley’s wife and her parents were not at the church on Sunday, the authorities said, but a relative of his wife’s grandmother posted on Facebook that the grandmother was there and had been killed.

        12. avatar Chip Bennett says:

          New details of the killings also emerged on Monday, including a possible motive. Local law enforcement officials said that Mr. Kelley may have been driven by anger toward his estranged wife’s family, the final chapter in a life full of domestic rage. In addition to his court-martial, in which his previous wife was the victim, he had been investigated on a rape complaint, though he was not charged and his relationship to the victim was unclear.

          And I’ve stated, multiple times now, that his propensity toward domestic violence and his issues with (i.e. hatred toward) his former in-laws all contributed to his actions.

          You’ll not find anywhere that I ever said that his atheistic beliefs were the sole motivator for his actions.

    2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Chip,

      I believe the most likely explanation for why the attacker went to the church: the church gathered all of the attacker’s “enemies” in one place, at a predictable time, in a small confined space, with virtually no cover, no exits, unlocked doors, and no ability to see his approach. In other words it was the perfect venue to ambush and decimate his enemies.

      Where else would the attacker find all of his enemies in one place, at a predictable time, in a confined space with no cover and no locked doors, and no ability to see his approach?

      1. avatar Chip Bennett says:

        What this explanation fails to take into account – again – is that the attacker shot many more people than just his ex-inlaws. The “convenient location” theory does not explain the 2 dozen dead, and many more injured.

        1. avatar Leroy Jenkins says:

          Let’s just stipulate that you want to believe that its his anti-church belief. Okay, you do you, no evidence of that, but ample evidence of him being a domestic abuser and having a grudge against the inlaws, or anyone else who left him. Like his 13 year old girlfriend when he was 19, ewww!!.

          But sure, he hated hymnals, or something.

        2. avatar JAlan says:

          Because as we all know, a guy who is out to murder people will act rationally and not at all like the insane psycho he was. Next time a school shooting happens, we won’t even have to look for a motive, as the shooter clearly just hated school.

        3. avatar Danny Griffin says:

          School shootings happen for a reason, too. Kids hated being bullied, made fun of. Research shows that almost all shootings there is a close, personal connection with the target chosen. This stuff rarely happens at random.

        4. avatar Chip Bennett says:

          But sure, he hated hymnals, or something.

          Again, I’ve said from the beginning that his propensity toward domestic violence, and his issues with his ex-inlaws all were contributing factors to his actions.

          What some want to go to great lengths to deny, however, is the contribution of his militant atheistic beliefs (as evidenced by his social media posts, and the testimony of many former friends/acquaintances, that he was unusually… pushy in his beliefs).

  3. avatar Jim says:

    No, no, no. IT WAS ANTIFA! THE REVOLUTION CAME A DAY LATE! GET ON THE STREETS THEY’RE COMING AAAAAAH!

  4. avatar PavePusher says:

    “Again, because of Kelley’s conviction on domestic violence charges and his incarceration while in the Air Force, he was a “prohibited person.” He couldn’t legally own or purchase a firearm. Yet he’d bought the Ruger AR-15 he used yesterday from an FFL, Academy Sports, and, while probably lying on the required form 4473, he somehow passed the NICS background check.”

    Do we have any actual reports on this? What things was he actually convicted for, and are theydisqualifying conditions?

    1. avatar Sian says:

      Domestic violence convictions are a hard stop, but if it was done by a court marshal instead of the public legal system, I’m not sure how that record gets out.

      Clearly a process failure was involved here.

    2. avatar Jeremy says:

      Dishonorable discharge is an automatic disqualifier on a 4473.

      1. avatar Rick says:

        He didn’t get a Dishonorable Discharge, DD, he got a Bad Conduct Discharge, BCD, both are post court marshall. Basically a DD is a felony, BCD a misdemeanor, not completely the same, but analogous. In both you lose all future benefits.

        So a BCD isn’t disqualifying, a Domestic Violence conviction probably would, but that gets into the crap reporting structure between local, state, and DoD. So unless the DoD reported up the chain feeding NICS, it wouldn’t show up. Lying on a 4473 is a crime, but I’m not sure its ever been prosecuted.

    3. avatar DaveL says:

      I’m trying very hard to imagine how a court marital for assaulting your wife and child, landing you in jail for a year, could possibly not count as either a felony or misdemeanor domestic violence conviction.

      1. avatar Shallnot BeInfringed says:

        A court marital? I know what you meant, but that’s just too coincidental to refrain from pointing out!

      2. avatar Big Bill says:

        Under article 128 of the UCMJ, domestic violence often carries a sentence of 3 to 5 years.
        This easily qualifies as a felony, and a federal felony at that.
        That the AF evidently failed to report this to the FBI (both are federal entities, and should be talking to each other) is a serious fault in the NICS check system.

    4. avatar BLoving says:

      Poor Academy…
      Too often folks don’t consider them a “real” gun store, and now they need to scramble to get this story off their backs and explain that they followed proper procedure to a “T”…
      On the one hand that have deeper pockets than a small LGS to handle this, but it still sux for their corporate-trained employees.

      1. avatar Steve says:

        Academy screwed over gun owners last year. Don’t support them.

    5. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Hard info, no, but I have heard repeatedly that his court martial/conviction was for “assault” involving his wife and child. Folks, DV is a hard stop, assault is not. And again repeatedly, I have heard he got a bad conduct discharge (not DD) which does NOT prohibit firearm ownership.

      1. avatar Big Bill says:

        The possible sentence for his offense is far longer than a year.
        That is a hard stop.
        The problem isn’t a disagreement over his actual actions getting him a court martial, it’s a failure to communicate between the Air Force and the FBI.

  5. avatar Rick says:

    I know this is controversial, but at this point, NICS needs to go away. Either do a real application to make it fast, accurate, an easy, you know actually work; yes that will mean more government data collection, or just scrap it altogether.

    1. avatar Steve says:

      Search BIDS the replacement for NICS.

    2. avatar LarryinTX says:

      While you’re at it, make it a system which can clear NFA items in 3 days, like other firearms.

      1. avatar Rick says:

        It should be good enough to know that I’ve got a security clearance, tsa pre-check, all of that should b in the same record since the FBI does all of the background checks.

        If you’re going to have a database, its a binary choice and should take like 5 milliseconds, whether its a 4473, or NFA form, its not like the background check is any different.

        1. avatar Rick says:

          I guess that that isn’t 100% true, the background check is the same, but for anything on the NFA list, has to be registered, i.e. save data, which the NICS doesn’t do, and can’t do legally.

          Just another example of why decent practical solutions can’t work when you try to artificially and intentionally engineer bad policy into the real world you get horrible kludges like NICS.

  6. avatar WI Patriot says:

    “Sutherland Springs Church Massacre Followed Shooter’s Domestic Dispute With In-Laws”

    I really take issue with this “story”, especially coming from the extreme liberal wapo…

      1. avatar WI Patriot says:

        And where are they regurgitating that story from…???

        Evidently you have a reading comprehension problem, re-read my comment then move along…

        1. avatar Leroy Jenkins says:

          Soooo…you said WAPO, I think Breitbart is pretty much the opposite.

          Or are you saying that its all a conspiracy that your betters are feeding you, and all these sites are cogs in the conspiracy. It’s all a conspiracy, everything, speeding tickets, they were targeting you. Just face it, your betters are very much convinced you can’t handle the truth, so just trust your betters.

        2. avatar Rob "NazyCegroWithAGun" Williams says:

          You write and discuss like an am radio child, no substance all attitue, little evidence and lots of fantasizing…

    1. avatar Rob "NazyCegroWithAGun" Williams says:

      You prefer the Washington Times I imagine, owned by a cult leader and comprised almost exclusively of unsubstantiated nonsense

      And thats your underlying problem, you have no education and you are dumb so you have no capacity to meaningfully evaluate sources. Only ignorant retrograde gun-nuts like you hold the delusion that The Post like the NYT are leftist papers. They publish reality with a rightist/government gloss no matter how many times your hero President Gump repeats his childish “fake news” mantra…

      Ill make you a deal, document that you earned a GED and Ill tutor you for $40 on how to assess various kinds of sources…

      1. avatar Excedrine says:

        You prefer the Washington COMpost, which is literally nothing more than Jeff Bezos’ personal blog at this point and is what’s actually comprised almost entirely of leftist dogmatic nonsense.

        And that’s actually your problem in a nut shell. You are merely projecting your abject aversion to knowledge and your own consequent incapacity to meaningfully evaluate the content of a message, much less its source. Only ignorant, retrograde gun-grabbing lunatics like you hold the delusion that The COMpost is a rightist paper. They actually publish reality with a leftist/statist gloss no matter how many times you or any other regressive repeats anything to the contrary.

        So instead, I’m going to make you a deal, especially since you’ve clearly demonstrated that you’re in absolutely no position whatsoever to even be making deals in the first place. Take your own advice and document that you ever went even a single year to any school, and I’ll kindly direct you to public speaking classes at your local community college. Assuming that even they would accept you, which I rightly doubt.

  7. avatar Steve says:

    “Yet he’d bought the Ruger AR-15 he used yesterday from an FFL, Academy Sports, ”

    Whelp, Academy played stupid last year after Orlando and removed ARs, eventually bringing them back some time later. This will probably have them remove them permanently.

    Doesn’t matter, I havent spent a penny with them since their Orlando decision.

  8. avatar Jonathan-Houston says:

    The Texas DPS (state police), who administer our license to carry (LTC) process, do utilize the FBI’s NICS background check. In fact, they run a check not just on initial applicants, but on license holders continually, on a monthly basis. That way they can revoke the LTC if the holder later becomes a prohibited possessor.
    I ‘d look for the antis to push for such a feature, but initiated by the Feds themselves at the national level and applying to all carriers nationwide, as part of any national reciprocity bill compromise.

    Now, maybe all licensing states do that already, anyway; maybe not. If not, then that would add a new burden on states that don’t periodically re-check backgrounds. It would add an even greater, and to-be-determined, burden on Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Wyoming and Vermont–the states that don’t require a permit at all for concealed carry.

    Wouldn’t it be an unfortunate irony if federally-imposed national reciprocity brought mandatory licensing to these formerly constitutional carry states?

    1. avatar Rick says:

      I’m in Kentucky, and we also have monthly CCDW checks. I don’t think this guy actually had a prohibitive conviction, he could have had a Texas LTC, if you believe the TDPS, he just screwed up his paperwork. You have to be pretty dumb to screw up one of those, I”m assuming Texas isn’t any more difficult, its basic info, in a shall issue state, the local sheriff doesn’t get to say no, its binary. I guess it asks if your a crazy, but who answers that accurately if you’re crazy, unless your crazy plus dumb. Kind of like the airlines used to ask if you’re packed your own bags and do you have a nuke, or whatever you used to get asked before 9-11, that worked so well.

      If his DoD Domestic Violence conviction was reduced to, or misreported, as simple assault, then he’s not a prohibited person, and a BCD isn’t the equal of a felony, a BCD is basically a misdemeanor.

      1. avatar Big Bill says:

        “If his DoD Domestic Violence conviction was reduced to, or misreported, as simple assault, then he’s not a prohibited person, and a BCD isn’t the equal of a felony, a BCD is basically a misdemeanor.”

        His conviction under Article 128 of the UCMJ carries a possible sentence of at least 5 years.
        Any conviction with a possible sentence of more than 1 year gets you tagged as prohibited, whether it’s a felony or misdemeanor.
        It makes no difference what your actual sentence is.

  9. avatar George from Alaska says:

    You can be charged with a crime like DV, which would be prohibitive for ownership or purchase, but all too often these charges are dismissed as “mutual combat” or plead to a lesser non-prohibited charge as long as the original incident did not involve a firearm, knife or other hand held weapon… yeah, yeah, yeah… I saw Lethal Weapon too so just stop it. And there are plenty of people who have had their long gun rights restored so that they can hunt again. Happens all the time….. and there is a process to do so at ATF or BATFE.gov, whatever they are now. Happens a lot in hunting and outdoor activity states…

  10. avatar TP says:

    He was also antifa

    1. avatar Leroy Jenkins says:

      No, Xenu commanded him to convert or slay the christian infidels.

  11. avatar Jeff says:

    The problem with NICS is like any other data system, GIGO, garbage in garbage out. I suspect we’ll find the problem with him not being in NICS will be a result of the Air Force and the UCMJ involvement. The UCMJ is fairly old, and a lot of the crimes you can commit under the UCMJ have no civilian equivalents (such as using obscene language in front of a minor, insubordination, etc.). Likewise, there may be a number of more modern crimes that might not be well defined under the UCMJ, such as spouse abuse. It’s possible he was brought up on assault charges with no distinction for spouse abuse. The resulting information would never have been entered into the Federal system as domestic violence. The other issue is the Bad Conduct Discharge. It’s not a Dishonorable Discharge which effectively counts as a felony. The BCD fits in a gray region, it can be a misdemeanor or a felony. I’m not a lawyer, but the distinction seems to be in whether the court martial was a general or a special court martial, and whether the resulting penalty was for more than a year. I expect when everything is said and done we’re going to find the difference between the military and civilian judicial systems created this reporting discrepancy in NICS.

  12. avatar Old JAG officer says:

    The Air Farce has admitted that its personnel DID NOT enter his Domestic Violence gross misdemeanor conviction in the NICS database. Trust your government.

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