Court found 60% of the US Air Force responsible for the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas
26 people were killed in the 2017 mass shooting at First Baptist Church.
A federal judge found the US Air Force 60% responsible for the mass shooting of a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in November 2017.
Devin Kelley opened fire at First Baptist Church, 40 miles outside of San Antonio, during a Sunday service, killing 26 people, ages 5 to 72, making it the worst mass shooting of any place of worship ever.
In a civil lawsuit brought against the government by families and victims of the shooting, Judge Xavier Rodriguez ruled that the service should have alerted the police because Kelley was being investigated and tried before a court-martial for assaulting his then-wife and her stepson, according to the FBI that Kelley was court-martialed Couldn’t legally buy a gun through his warning system.
“The court concludes that the government has not exercised reasonable diligence in its obligation to report criminal records to the FBI. The government’s failure to exercise due diligence increased the risk of physical harm to the public, including plaintiff deaths and injuries to plaintiffs at Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church on Nov. 5, 2017, “wrote Rodriguez.
The government argued that the Brady Act protects them from liability, which requires federal agencies, including the Department of Defense and the Air Force, to report disqualifying information “no less frequently than quarterly,” according to the file. “Disqualifying information includes” any record made by an individual that demonstrates that the individual falls into one of the categories of “those who are prohibited from buying firearms.”
During the investigation into the domestic violence allegations, Kelley threatened to “kill both (his wife) and Air Force security” if she reported the abuse to authorities, the court record said. In addition, his wife told investigators that Kelley threatened a mass shooting at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.
“My job is lucky. I would take a shotgun and blow everyone’s head off,” Kelley said at the time, according to court records.
When Air Force investigators investigated Kelley, they discovered a “long history of violence and abuse,” the court said.
Kelley was eventually sentenced to one year in prison on the domestic assault charges.
He later remarried and molested his second wife, according to the court record.
The judge concluded that the Air Force has not properly reported Kelley to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which arms dealers must use to conduct a background check.
“The trial conclusively determined that no other person – not even Kelley’s own parents or partners – knew, knew, or was able to commit as much about the violence Devin Kelley was about to commit as the United States. – Had the government done its job and properly reported Kelley’s information to the background check system – Kelley would most likely have been prevented from carrying out the shooting of the church. For these reasons, the government bears considerable responsibility for the plaintiffs’ damage.
Baptist Church’s first pastor Frank Pomeroy told ABC News chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas in 2019 that he was still injured from the shootings.
“The aftermath hurt almost as much as what Sagittarius did in our church,” said Pomeroy.
The judge gave the government 15 days to prepare a settlement plan.