After killings, Pentagon added thousands of dishonorable discharge cases to FBI database

February 12, 2018

In the weeks after Devin Patrick Kelley gunned down 26 people in a Sutherland Springs church Nov. 5, the military sent thousands of dishonorable discharge records to an FBI database used to prevent former service members from obtaining firearms.

Kelley had been kicked out of the Air Force after serving time for a 2012 felony conviction. The service never forwarded his name to the database, which would have prevented him from legally buying four firearms in the years since, one of which he used in the massacre. As a result, the Pentagon ordered a review of military compliance with the reporting requirements.

The federal database had carried around 11,000 dishonorable discharges from all service branches at the time of the shooting, the worst in the state’s history. FBI records show that the number rose to 14,825 in November and reached 15,583 the following month.

It was not immediately clear how far back the newly added cases went.

Kelley’s rampage, which ended in his suicide, occurred during a Nov. 5 service at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church. He had served in the Air Force, but was kicked out after being convicted of spousal and child abuse.

The Air Force admitted it had not reported Kelley’s conviction and discharge status but the problem was military-wide. The names of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines given dishonorable and bad-conduct discharges had not been forwarded to the database.

Kelley, 26, of New Braunfels was given a bad-conduct discharge after his conviction at Holloman AFB in New Mexico on charges of assaulting his wife and infant child, who suffered a skull fracture. He was sentenced to a year in a military jail and then drummed out of the Air Force in 2014.

He was able to legally buy a firearm each year between 2014 and 2017. In 2016, he bought a Ruger AR-556 rifle at an Academy Sports & Outdoors in San Antonio. Academy said his background was checked and Kelley passed. The weapon was used in the church shooting.

In the wake of the shooting, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein ordered a review of all records with reportable offenses across the Air Force back to 2002. More than 60,000 cases described as “serious offenses” were said to be under scrutiny.

Kelley entered active duty on Jan. 5, 2010 and trained at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, After basic training, he entered technical school on March 8, 2010, studying to be a 1N411 — fusion analyst — at Goodfellow AFB, but eventually flunked out. He later completed traffic management training at Fort Lee, Virginia, and was stationed at Holloman in April 2011.

The following year, he was court-martialed for assaulting his wife and stepson, given a year in Navy Corrections Brig Miramar and reduced from Airman 1st Class toAirman Basic, the Air Force’s lowest rank. He was released from prison on March 31, 2013, but the conviction was never reported to the FBI.


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