Last Monday, a federal court ordered the US Air Force (USAF) to pay more than $230 million to the victims’ families and survivors of the 2017 Sutherland Springs shooting. The USAF failed to report the gunman’s earlier conviction and issues while serving in the Air Force, a report that could have stopped him from purchasing a weapon, thus preventing the shooting.

The gunman in question was Devin Patrick Kelley, who had briefly escaped from a mental health facility in New Mexico in 2012 and was named a suspect in a 2013 sexual assault charge. During the middle of a Sunday church service at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Kelley walked in and opened fire with his Ruger AR-556 on innocent civilians. The brutal rampage would claim the lives of 26 people, one of which was pregnant with a baby and eight of which were children.

Devin Patrick Kelley in his driver's license photo (Texas Department of Public Safety via NBC). Source:
Devin Patrick Kelley in his driver’s license photo (Texas Department of Public Safety via NBC)

Records presented at court showed that there had been at least three separate opportunities where the authorities and the Air Force could have prevented Kelley from obtaining a gun. One of which was through timely reporting of his court-martial documents to the National Criminal Information Center Database.

The killer was once part of the US Air Force, serving within its logistical readiness department at the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico in 2010 prior to the 2017 Sutherland Springs shooting. Reports and documents showed that he pleaded guilty to a court-martial for assault on his family, namely his wife and son. He fractured his son’s skull in a fit of rage and was sentenced to a year of confinement and a demotion in rank. His wife would file for divorce soon after the confinement.