Texas gunman served 12 months in Miramar Brig

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SAN DIEGO – The man who killed 26 people and wounded 20 at a Texas church on Sunday spent 12 months in confinement at the Miramar Brig in San Diego, Air Force officials said Monday.

Devin P. Kelley was convicted in a general court-martial in 2012 on two charges of domestic assault against his wife and step-son.

He served out his sentence in the brig at MCAS Miramar, after which he was released with a bad conduct discharge in 2014, according to the Air Force.

Kelley's domestic violence commission was never entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by Air Force officials, and the service has launched a review of the case to determine why. The failure to relay the information prevented the entry of his conviction into the federal database that must be checked before someone is able to purchase a firearm. Had his information been in the database, it should have prevented gun sales to Kelley.

Kelley's background

The man who opened fire at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs had previously faced multiple charges in his 2012 court-martial related to violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including several involving firearms, according to records released by the Air Force.

He was originally charged with assault and battery against his wife, aggravated assault against his step-son and four charges involving firearms -- including two charges of pointing a loaded firearm at his wife and two charges of pointing an unloaded firearm.

The firearms charges were dropped prior to trial as a result of a plea agreement. Kelley pleaded guilty to aggravated assault against the child and assault against his wife.

Here is what he pleaded guilty to:

  • Assault against a child: Kelley assaulted a child under the age of 16 "striking him" on the "head and body" "with a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm."
  • Assault against his wife: Kelley struck his wife with his hands, kicking her, choking and pulling her hair.

But despite his history of domestic abuse and questionable behavior involving firearms, Kelley was able to purchase the Ruger AR-556 rifle he allegedly used in the shooting from a store in San Antonio, Texas in April 2016, a law enforcement official said.

There was no disqualifying information in the background check conducted as required for the purchase, a law enforcement official told CNN.

At one point, the shooter tried to get a license to carry a gun in Texas but was denied by the state, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, citing the director of Texas' Department of Public Safety.

"So how was it that he was able to get a gun? By all the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun," Abbott told CNN. "So how did this happen?"

Planned reviews

The Air Force Inspector General is currently conducting an investigation into what happened. The Pentagon has also requested that its own inspector general review the handling of Kelley's records, along with the Air Force, as well as its reporting practices more broadly.

"The DoD IG will also review relevant policies and procedures to ensure records from other cases across DoD have been reported correctly," said Mark Wright, acting deputy director of defense press operations.

Consistent with the Air Force statement issued Monday, a federal law enforcement official told CNN that federal authorities have found no records they were notified of the conviction.

Federal law prohibits individuals convicted of a misdemeanor crime involving domestic violence from owning firearms. The military is required to report domestic violence convictions to civilian law enforcement. The Air Force statement states: "Federal law prohibited him from buying or possessing firearms after this conviction."

Classifying Kelley's discharge as "bad conduct" rather than as "dishonorable" also raises an important distinction when it comes to the question of how he was able to purchase the firearms used in the shooting.

  • A dishonorable discharge is considered the most severe classification of punitive military judgments and US federal law prohibits ownership of firearms by those who have been dishonorably discharged.
  • A bad conduct discharge is considered slightly less severe and does not implicitly block individuals from obtaining or possessing guns.

On Monday, ATF Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski addressed media questions regarding Kelley's ability to purchase firearms with his previous discharge from the military.

"In general, if an individual has a dishonorable discharge from the military they would be prohibited from possessing or purchasing firearms and this specific investigation we are early in the investigation, we do not have all the documentation yet. Until we can get all the documentation to determine exactly what his discharge and conviction in the military we will not have a determination on if this individual was prohibited from possessing or purchasing firearms," he said.


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