As more information comes to light about Texas church shooter Devin Kelley, police have uncovered a disturbing series of events leading up to Sunday morning, one of which was a reported escape from a mental hospital.
Kelley was arrested at a Texas Greyhound station near the U.S.-Mexican border in June of 2012; at the time, he was facing a court martial for domestic violence charges, for which he was later convicted. Just before his arrest, Kelley escaped from Peak Behavioral Health Services in Santa Teresa, N.M., WFAA reports. El Paso police, who conducted the arrest, were told by Sunland Park, N.M., authorities that Kelly “suffered from mental disorders and had plans to run.”
According to the arrest report, Sunland Park authorities also told El Paso police that Kelley “was a danger to himself and others, as he had already been caught sneaking firearms” onto Holloman Air Force base. They even claimed that Kelley was “attempting to carry out death threats [he] had made on his military chain of command.”
Following the arrest, Kelley was likely returned to the mental hospital, but when contacted by WFAA, Sunland Park police claimed that they did not have an arrest report for him.
The investigation into Kelley has raised a number of red flags — most notably that he shouldn’t even have been able to buy a gun. In 2014, he was given a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force for his domestic violence conviction. However, the Air Force has admitted that they never entered his data into the National Criminal Information Center, which tracks citizens’ eligibility to own firearms. If his information had been in that database, Kelley would have been ineligible for any gun transaction in a store, though there are some loopholes to the law; private sellers who may choose to sell at some gun shows aren’t required to run background checks.
Gun shop owner Jeff Lepp noted that Kelley passed background checks both times that he bought guns from Lepp’s Colorado store. The merchant said that he’s saddened by the loss of life, adding, “You never want to sell something to somebody who’s gonna commit any form of a crime, let alone a mass murder like this.”
Col. Don Christensen, who is the former top prosecutor for the Air Force, reflected on the military’s misstep, saying, “What [Kelley] was convicted of should have stopped him from getting a gun. He should not have had a gun, because one, the maximum punishment [for his conviction] was more than a year, and two, it involved domestic violence.”
The gun control debate hasn’t quite peaked following the Sutherland Springs shooting like it did following Las Vegas and Sandy Hook for a few reasons. First is the obvious fact that, if properly enforced, current gun laws should have worked to stop Kelley from buying a gun. Second, Kelley was stopped by a “good guy with a gun” when Stephen Willeford fired his AR-15 rifle at the killer.
When asked about the shooting and gun control, President Trump said it’s a “situation that probably shouldn’t be discussed too much.” He also made note of Willeford’s role in stopping the massacre, saying that if he hadn’t been there, “instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead.”