Texas Church Shooter Devin Kelley Was Charged With Animal Cruelty After Beating a Dog With His Fists

On Sunday, a gunman opened fire on a Texas church, killing 26 people.

The suspect, former Air Force worker Devin Patrick Kelley, had a history of violence, including alleged cruelty to animals.

Kelley was cited for animal cruelty in El Paso County on August 1, 2014, according to The Denver Post. Numerous witnesses saw him in a yard, jumping on top of a husky and beating it in the head and neck.

According to the report, Kelley called for the brown and white dog to come. When it didn't, he ran over to it, tackled it, held it down with his knees, and punched it four to five times. The dog got up to run away, and when Kelley caught up with it, he picked it up, threw it to the ground and dragged it by its neck.

This husky lives in Russia. Alleged gunman Devin Patrick Kelley was charged with beating a white and brown husky outside his Texas home. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk

Authorities came and found the dog undernourished and took it to a vet. Kelley claimed that he was trying to restrain the dog from acting aggressively. Kelley received a deferred probationary sentence, paid fines totaling $448.50, and the charges were dismissed.

Kelley also has a history of spousal and child abuse, which is why he was discharged from the Air Force. He pleaded guilty to intentionally fracturing a toddler's skull.

It is not uncommon for violent criminals to start with animals. Many famous murderers tortured or killed small animals. Famously, Jeffrey Dahmer, "Boston Strangler" Albert DeSalvo and "Son of Sam" David Berkowitz tortured animals in their youth and recalled that torture as their introduction to behaving violently. Psychology Today reports that, in one prison, 70 percent of the criminals most violent to humans also had a history of animal abuse, whereas the average among nonaggressive prisoners was only 6 percent.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund says people who have harmed animals are five times more likely to harm humans than people who haven't. The National Link Coalition claims that animal, child, elder and domestic abuse go hand-in-hand, and it works to reduce them all.

Considering the link between animal and human violence, some argue that the American justice system should take animal violence more seriously and impose harsher penalties on those who commit it.

The National Sheriffs' Association advocated for the FBI to start tracking animal abuse in its National Incident-Based Reporting System, and in 2016, it agreed to do so. It now collects data from participating law enforcement agencies to track these crimes, alongside murder, assault and arson.

"If somebody is harming an animal, there is a good chance they also are hurting a human," said John Thompson, deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs' Association, according to the FBI news site. "If we see patterns of animal abuse, the odds are that something else is going on.