The US Air Force must pay more than $230 million in damages to survivors and families of victims of a 2017 Texas church massacre for failing to report a conviction that could have prevented the shooter from shooting. legally purchase the gun used in the shooting, a federal judge has ruled. in San Antonio on Monday.
More than two dozen people were killed, including eight children, when Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire during a Sunday service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Kelley, who died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound after being shot and chased by two men who heard the gunshots at the church, had served in the Air Force before the attack .
U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez had ruled in July that the Air Force was “60% responsible” for the attack because it failed to submit Kelley’s assault conviction during his time in the air force. Air Force to a national database.
An Air Force filing from Kelley’s court martial indicates that he pleaded guilty to several specifications of assault, including hitting his wife, choking her with his hands and kicking her. He was also found guilty of striking his stepson in the head and body “with force likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm”.
In 2012, months before his conviction in the domestic violence case, Kelley briefly escaped from a mental health facility in New Mexico and got into trouble for bringing firearms to a military base and threatening his superiors there, police reports say.
Deputies were called to Kelley’s New Braunfels home in June 2013 about the rape case and investigated for three months, Comal County Sheriff Mark Reynolds said. But it appeared they stopped investigating after believing Kelley had left Texas and moved to Colorado. Reynolds said the case was then listed as inactive.
Under Pentagon rules, information about military convictions for crimes such as assault is supposed to be submitted to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Investigative Services Division for inclusion in the National’s database. Criminal Information Center.
For unspecified reasons, the Air Force did not provide the Kelley information as requested.
Lawyers for survivors and relatives of those killed had asked for $418 million, while the Justice Department offered $31.8 million. Jamal Alsaffar, the Austin attorney who led the plaintiffs’ legal team, was pleased with the judge’s decision.
“These families are the heroes here. While no amount can return the many lives lost or destroyed at the hands of government neglect, their bravery in achieving this verdict will make this country safer by helping to ensure this type of government failure never happens again. more in our country,” he said. noted.
Messages left Monday by the Associated Press to the Justice Department and the Air Force were not immediately returned.
The approximately 80 claimants include relatives of those killed and 21 survivors and their families. Authorities put the official death toll at 26 because one of the 25 people killed was pregnant.