The gunman responsible for the killing of 26 churchgoers in the small community of Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday was reportedly an Air Force logistics veteran, who received a bad conduct discharge following a court-martial on charges of physical assault against his spouse and their child.
Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, has been identified as the person seen entering the white-steepled First Baptist Church during its Sunday service, clad in black tactical gear and wearing what is believed to be a ballistic vest. Reports indicate Kelley carried a semi-automatic rifle chambered in .223, likely a Ruger AR-556, that he turned on the crowd of churchgoers. Kelley showed no one mercy, taking aim at children, pregnant women, and the elderly alike. A whopping 26 people were left dead, with 20 more reported as injured, before his rampage was cut short by an armed resident of the small Texas community.
Local resident Johnnie Langendorff was driving by the church when he saw Kelley being engaged by a local man armed with a rifle. According to Langendorff, he pulled over as the gunman took off in his Ford Explorer.
The resident “briefed me quickly on what had just happened and said we had to get him, and so that’s what I did,” Langendorff said. The two followed Kelley for nearly 11 miles before the suspect reportedly lost control of his vehicle and crashed.
“The gentleman that was with me got out and rested his rifle on my hood and kept it aimed at him [shooter], telling him to get out. There was no movement, there was none of that. I just know his brake lights were going on and off, so he might’ve been unconscious from the crash or something like that. I’m not sure.”
Upon arriving at the scene, police found Kelley dead from what they believe to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside his vehicle, along with a number of other firearms.
The victims inside the small church, ranging in age from 5 years old to 72, included the 14-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor. At least eight of the victims were tragically part of the same family, including one woman who was about 5 months pregnant and three of her children.
Kelley served as a logistics clerk in the U.S. Air Force from 2010 to 2012 and was stationed Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, according to Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek. In 2012, he faced a court-martial for assaults on his spouse and their child, which resulted in separating Kelley from service with a band conduct discharge. Kelley was reduced in rank and sentenced to one year confinement before being released.
According to Texas state records, Kelley applied for a license to carry a firearm, but was denied by the state. A bad conduct discharge is not the same as a dishonorable discharge, which is reserved for only the most reprehensible of conduct, such as desertion, sexual assault, or murder. However, some questions remain as to why Kelley was able to pass the necessary background checks to purchase a firearm after a court-martial tied specifically to charges of domestic violence.
“My heart is broken,” Wilson County Commissioner Albert Gamez Jr. told CNN. “We never think where it can happen, and it does happen. It doesn’t matter where you’re at. In a small community, real quiet and everything, and look at this.”
Image courtesy of the Texas Department of Public Safety