texas church shooting
February 12, 2018

The military quietly added the names of more than 4,000 dishonorably discharged military personnel to the FBI's background check system after a former Air Force member killed 26 people at a Texas church in November, CNN reports. Devin Patrick Kelley, the 26-year-old shooter, had not been entered into a national database by the Air Force after receiving a bad-conduct discharge for assaulting his wife; if his name had been in the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) database, he would have been prohibited from purchasing firearms.

After the November attack, the Department of Defense rushed to make sure the FBI's system was up to date. CNN found that the backlog was "so significant that the FBI's tally of dishonorably discharged former service members has ballooned by 4,284 names in just three months, a 38 percent leap." In 2015, the number of people blocked from owning firearms due to being dishonorably discharged was around 11,000. After November, that bloomed to where it is today, at 15,597.

Still, the database is not perfect, and it only blocks sales through licensed dealers. Purchases from neighbors, for example, do not require a background check, CNN notes. Nevertheless, "the background check system has blocked over three million illegal attempts to buy guns," said the co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Avery W. Gardiner. "But a database is only as good as the data in it." Jeva Lange

November 12, 2017

Members of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the site of last week's church shooting that killed 26 people, will gather with hundreds of mourners Sunday for an outdoor memorial service. The church building, which may soon be demolished, is open as a memorial site with 26 empty chairs.

Funerals for several of the victims were held over the past few days, as was a special Veterans Day ceremony on Saturday, as nearly half of those killed had ties to the Air Force. "Maybe," said county Judge Richard Jackson at the Veterans Day event, "this will start the healing process that will get Sutherland Springs and Wilson County to put this horrific tragedy behind us and look to the future." Bonnie Kristian

November 11, 2017

The gunman who killed 26 people at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday "just had a lot of demons or hatred inside of him," shooter Devin Patrick Kelley's ex-wife Tessa Brennaman told CBS News in her first interview since the attack.

Brennaman, 25, said on Inside Edition Friday her marriage to Kelley was abusive and frightening. In 2013, he pleaded guilty to hitting and choking her, as well as "intentionally" fracturing her infant son's skull. Once, Brennaman said, he threatened to kill her over a speeding ticket. "He had a gun in his holster right here," she said, "and he took that gun out and he put it to my temple and he told me, 'Do you want to die? Do you want to die?'"

Brennaman and Kelley married in 2011 and divorced in 2012. He later remarried, and investigators believe the church attack was connected to conflict with his second wife's family. Bonnie Kristian

November 7, 2017

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich (N.M.) are joining forces to draw up a bill that would "prevent anyone convicted of domestic violence — be it in criminal or military court — from buying a gun," Flake announced Tuesday.

Congress technically already made it illegal for anyone convicted of domestic abuse to buy a gun in 1996, although poor databases and background checks can result in abusers obtaining weapons anyway, The New York Times reports. For example, the law's so-called "boyfriend loophole" means the measure only applies if the victim and abuser live together, are married, or have a child.

Specifically, Flake and Heinrich aims to close a loophole in which the military has failed to report domestic violence misdemeanors to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, CNN's Jake Tapper reports. Separately, in 2014, one study found that almost 12,000 people convicted of misdemeanor-level stalking were allowed to own firearms.

Flake's announcement follows the Texas church massacre Sunday that left 26 people dead. The attacker, Devin Patrick Kelley, had previously pleaded guilty to a 2012 assault of his wife and infant child. The Air Force did not enter into a national database the 2012 domestic violence court-martial, which would have prohibited Kelley from purchasing weapons. Jeva Lange

November 7, 2017

The 26-year-old gunman who killed more than two dozen people in a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church on Sunday once escaped from a psychiatric hospital and attempted to carry out death threats against his superiors in the military, The New York Times reports.

In 2012, Devin Patrick Kelley escaped Peak Behavioral Health Services in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, and was caught by police at a nearby bus station in El Paso, where he was apparently attempting to get away. Kelley had been sent to the psychiatric facility after breaking his infant stepson's skull and assaulting his wife, charges he pleaded guilty to and which led to his eventual discharge from the Air Force.

An El Paso police report claims the person who reported Kelley missing said he "suffered from mental disorders," that he was "attempting to carry out death threats [against] his military chain of command," and that he was "a danger to himself and others as he had already been caught sneaking firearms onto Holloman Air Force Base," Houston's KPRC reports.

The Air Force did not enter into a national database the 2012 domestic violence court-martial, which would have prohibited Kelley from purchasing weapons, the Air Force announced Monday. Jeva Lange

November 7, 2017

Texas officials will not use the name of the 26-year-old Sutherland Springs church shooter going forward because "we do not want to glorify him and what he's done," said Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Freeman Martin on Tuesday. Local officials had already publicly identified the shooter, who killed 26 people Sunday, The Guardian reports.

"Certainly don't want to glorify what has happened," added FBI special agent Chris Combs. "There [are] a couple of campaigns out there, one is called Don't Name Them, we don't talk about the shooter, we don't see his name out there in the press so it doesn't encourage other people to do horrific acts like this."

Diana Hendricks, who works as the director of communications for the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University, emphasized that in addition to the use of the shooter's name, comparisons and rankings of body counts can also be dangerous. "When you give things this badge of dishonor, it sets a bar for the next one," she told The Guardian. Jeva Lange

November 6, 2017

The U.S. Air Force did not enter into a national database the 2012 domestic violence court-martial of Devin Patrick Kelley, the 26-year-old who fatally shot at least 26 people at a Texas church on Sunday, the Air Force announced Monday. If his name had been in the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) database, he would have prohibited him from purchasing firearms.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement that officials have ordered a review of how Kelley's conviction was handled by the Special Investigations Office at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, and why it was not entered into the NCIC database for background checks on gun purchases. He was convicted of fracturing his infant stepson's skull and assaulting his first wife, and received a bad conduct discharge.

A Glock and Ruger handgun were found in Kelley's car after the massacre, NBC News reports, and a Ruger AR-556 was discovered at the church. The Air Force is also now looking into whether other convictions have been inadvertently left out of the database. Catherine Garcia

November 6, 2017

He was scared, but when Stephen Willeford heard gunshots coming from the First Baptist Church on Sunday morning, the former NRA instructor grabbed his rifle and went to investigate what was going on.

In an interview Monday with 40/29 News, Willeford said his daughter first told him someone was shooting at the church, less than a block away from their Sutherland Springs, Texas, home. His daughter said she could see the shooter, wearing black tactical gear, and Willeford said he ran outside, not even stopping to put shoes on. He said he quickly exchanged gunfire with the shooter, identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, and kept cover by ducking behind a truck.

"I know I hit him," Willeford told 40/29 News. "He got into his vehicle, and he fired another couple rounds through his side window. When the window dropped, I fired another round at him again." The car sped away, and Willeford flagged down a man in a pickup truck, telling him about the shooting. They called 911 as they chased Kelley down the road, and saw him hit a road sign; his car flipped over into a ditch, and Willeford jumped out of the truck and yelled at Kelley to get out of the car. Kelley was found dead inside the vehicle, and police believe he committed suicide.

Willeford told 40/29 News he knows several people who attend First Baptist Church, and he only wishes he had been able to stop Kelley sooner; Kelly killed at least 26 people and wounded more than a dozen others. "I'm no hero," he said. "I think my God, my Lord, protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done, and I just wish I could have gotten there faster, but I didn't know, I didn't know what was happening." Catherine Garcia

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