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Judge: Air Force Mostly at Fault in 2017 Massacre at a Texas Church

AP Photo/Eric Gay
AP Photo/Eric Gay

A federal judge ruled Tuesday the U.S. Air Force is primarily responsible for the mass shooting at a Texas church in 2017.

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez for the Western District of Texas decided the U.S. government is 60% responsible while assigning just 40% of the blame to Devin Patrick Kelley, the gunman who killed 26 people, including a pregnant woman, at Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church in Texas, according to the Associated Press.

Rodriguez holds the Air Force responsible for failing to enter Kelley’s criminal history into a background check database, which might have barred him from purchasing firearms.

The ruling came after family members of the gunman’s victims filed a civil complaint against the branch of the U.S. military in 2018.

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“The trial conclusively established that no other individual — not even Kelley’s own parents or partners — knew as much as the United States about the violence that Devin Kelley had threatened to commit and was capable of committing,” the judge stated in his ruling. “Moreover, the evidence shows that — had the government done its job and properly reported Kelley’s information into the background check system — it is more likely than not that Kelley would have been deterred from carrying out the church shooting.”

According to court documents, Kelley made four separate purchases in preparation for the 2017 mass shooting. When he bought the guns, he passed background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Because the Air Force didn’t enter his criminal history into the database, NICS failed to account for a 2012 offense that disqualified Kelley, who killed himself after the shooting, from purchasing weapons. He had been convicted at the time by a general court-martial of domestic assault of his wife and child.

Kelley served nearly five years in the Air Force before being discharged in 2014 for bad conduct.

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