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A memorial for the victims of the shooting at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church in 2017 includes 26 white chairs, each painted with a cross and and rose and placed in the sanctuary, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Judge: Air Force Mostly At Fault in 2017 Texas Church Attack

By Associated Press

A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Air Force is mostly responsible for a former serviceman killing more than two dozen people at a Texas church in 2017 because it failed to submit his criminal history into a database, which should have prevented him from purchasing firearms.

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez in San Antonio wrote in a ruling signed Wednesday that the Air Force was “60% responsible” for the deaths and injuries at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. The attack remains the worst mass shooting in Texas history.

Devin Kelley had served nearly five years in the Air Force before being discharged in 2014 for bad conduct, after he was convicted of assaulting a former wife and stepson, cracking the child’s skull.

The Air Force has publicly acknowledged that the felony conviction for domestic violence, had it been put into the FBI database, could have prevented Kelley from buying guns from licensed firearms dealers, and also from possessing body armor.

“Its failure proximately caused the deaths and injuries of Plaintiffs at the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church,” Rodriguez wrote.

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Kelley opened fire during a Sunday service at Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church in November 2017. Authorities put the official death toll at 26 because one of the 25 people killed was pregnant. Kelley died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was shot and chased by two men who heard the gunfire at the church.

The lawsuit against the federal government was brought by family members of the victims. Rodriguez ordered a later trial to assess damages owed to the families. This year, several mass shooting events have impacted communities of faith. 

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2 thoughts on “Judge: Air Force Mostly At Fault in 2017 Texas Church Attack”

  1. But due to sovereign immunity, the families won’t collect unless the government has waived it, which is rare and usually applies only in cases of a contract.

  2. Boraxo Indigo

    This is one of many gaps in the law. Also military dependents overseas who commit crimes on bases, in particular sexual abuse crimes, are simply sent back to the states since there is no court jurisdiction to try them. Neither the local governments nor the military can prosecute civilians.

    Additionally, some military members may make admissions to psychologists that are very old or clearly not prosecutable any longer or for which the military has no jurisdiction. These may lead to administrative discharge from the military, but no record of the behavior in legal documents that might be shared.

    Another glitch in this system is that psychiatrists and psychologists in and out of the military are extremely hesitant to report on clients who are not a clear imminent threat to someone. If they report clients, and they find out, they lose customers. If they are wrong, they may get sued. Of course, the poor ability for the counseling community to predict violent behavior also exposes the limitations of the field. This is also bad for the enterprise and resisted by professional counseling organizations who’d like us to believe they operate in the field of mental illness with the skill of a surgeon.

    I predict that the Air Force will take action to use taxpayer monies to pay the damages or Congress will mandate it does. This shooting was a White on Black crime, with a lot of publicity, so Black privilege will apply.

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