The Air Force missed at least four chances to stop Devin Kelley from buying guns, the Pentagon’s inspector general said Friday in a shocking report that shed new light on how the shooter was able to get firearms and carry out a massacre at a Texas Baptist church last year.
In its report, the watchdog said the Air Force should’ve submitted Kelley’s fingerprints to the FBI database after he was discharged from the Air Force in 2014 following an assault conviction, along with three other prior instances that should’ve put him on law enforcement’s radar. If those fingerprints had been submitted, Kelley would’ve been barred from buying guns.
“Because of that conviction, the Air Force should have sent his fingerprints and final disposition report to the FBI, which should have prevented him from legally buying a gun,” the inspector general said. “However, the Air Force did not submit his fingerprints or a final disposition report documenting his conviction to the FBI for inclusion in its criminal history databases, which allowed him to purchase the weapons he used in the shooting.”
“The Air Force had four opportunities to submit Kelley’s fingerprints to the FBI, but did not,” the report continued.
Kelley, who was 26 at the time of the November 2017 shooting, killed 26 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. He was shot by civilians while exiting the church and died shortly after the massacre.
The inspector general recommended a host of changes to Air Force protocol, including tightening its record-keeping and procedures for ensuring fingerprints are submitted to law enforcement when appropriate. The inspector general said Air Force officials agree with its recommendations, the report says.
Specifically, the review found that the Air Force should’ve submitted Kelley’s fingerprints in 2011 during an investigation into reports he had beaten his stepson; in February 2012, when allegations surfaced that he’d assaulted his wife; in June 2012 when he confessed to hurting his stepson; and finally in November 2013 after Kelley’s court-martial conviction for assault, which came just months before he was formally discharged from the military.