Air Force Failed to Notify FBI 6 Times of Felony Convictions for 2017 Texas Church Shooter

The U.S. Air Force is being held responsible for failing to report felony convictions of Devin Kelley, who shot and killed over two dozen people at a Texas church in 2017 to the FBI six times.

Kelley served in the Air Force for nearly five years before he was discharged in 2014 for bad conduct. He was convicted for domestic violence for assaulting his former wife and stepson.

The Air Force reportedly failed to fingerprint and submit the prints to the FBI on four separate occasions, and then failed to submit the final report on the case twice. A felony conviction in the FBI database would prevent Kelley from purchasing firearms from licensed dealers.

"Its failure proximately caused the deaths and injuries of Plaintiffs at the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church," U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez wrote.

Kelley purchased four firearms after his discharge, and used three of them in the mass shooting, the Associated Press reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Church shooting memorial
The Air Force reportedly failed to submit Devin Kelley's felony convictions to the FBI database six times. Above, a group of 12 pastors from local churches, pray beside a memorial service for victims of the mass shooting that killed 26 people in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 8, 2017. AFP via Getty Images

Rodriguez in San Antonio wrote in a ruling signed Wednesday that the Air Force was "60 percent responsible" for the massacre at First Baptist Church in the small town of Sutherland Springs, where Devin Kelley opened fire during a Sunday service. Authorities put the official death toll at 26 because one of the 25 people killed was pregnant.

The attack remains the worst mass shooting in Texas history.

"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," Rodriguez wrote.

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.

Rodriguez said that had the government done its job and entered Kelley's history into the database, "it is more likely than not that Kelley would have been deterred from carrying out the Church shooting."

An Air Force spokeswoman did not immediately return a request seeking comment.

Authorities said Kelley fired at least 450 rounds at helpless worshippers who tried taking cover in the pews. As he left the small wood-frame church, Kelley was confronted by an armed resident who had grabbed his own rifle and exchanged fire with him. Kelley fled as two Sutherland Springs residents gave chase, and died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wounds after losing control of his vehicle and crashing.

Last month, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that survivors and relatives can't sue a sporting goods chain where Kelley purchased an AR-556 semi-automatic rifle used in shooting. Academy Sports and Outdoors had appealed after two lower courts declined to dismiss lawsuits.

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.

Texas Shooting Memorial
A federal judge ruled on July 7 that the U.S. Air Force was "60 percent responsible" for the attack at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, because it failed to submit Devin Kelley's criminal history into a database, which should have prevented him from purchasing the weapon he used. Above, a November 12, 2017, photo of memorial for the victims of the shooting in Sutherland Springs. Eric Gay, File/AP Photo