Devin Patrick Kelley, a 26-year-old Air Force veteran, killed 26 people and injured at least 20 more when he walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX and opened fire on Sunday. CNN reported that according to security footage from the gas station across the street, where Kelley went before embarking on his rampage, he was dressed all in black and appeared to be wearing a ballistics vest.
The victims of the shooting ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years, and included a pregnant woman and the fourteen-year-old daughter of the pastor. Kelley appears to have no connection to the First Baptist Church except that his wife and in-laws occasionally attend services there, CBS News reported.
Police believe that the shooting was motivated by a domestic dispute; he had recently sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law. While his wife and her parents were not in attendance, Kelley’s grandmother-in-law, Lula White, was at church that day. Kelley shot and killed her during the rampage, CNN reported.
Kelley pulled up to the church, got out of his car, and started shooting into the church building before he even got in the door. Neighbors told local news they could hear the gunfire coming from inside the church, and speculated that he reloaded at least once.
When he left the church, a local man confronted him with a rifle. Kelley dropped his gun and sped away in his car, with locals giving chase behind him. He crashed near the Guadalupe County line and was found dead of a gunshot wound— investigators believe it was self-inflicted. There were two handguns in the car with him, a Glock .9mm and a Ruger .22 caliber, Dallas News reported.
The Washington Post confirmed that Kelley joined the Air Force in 2010, where he served in Logistical Readiness on Holloman AFB in New Mexico. He was court-martialed in 2012 for assaulting his wife and their child, and received a bad conduct discharge plus 12 months of confinement and demotion to E-1.
Kelley’s criminal record means that he should not have been able to acquire a gun. Texas law prevents people with domestic abuse convictions from owning guns for five years after the end of their sentence. In fact, Kelley had previously been denied a right-to-carry license by the state of Texas.
When Kelley filled out the form to buy the semi-automatic rifle used in the shooting from an Academy Sports & Outdoors in late October, he said he had no criminal record and listed an address in Colorado Springs, CO as his home address.
He showed off the purchase on social media, posting a picture of the gun with the caption “she’s a bad bitch” and going so far as to make the AR-556 his Facebook cover photo. Bizarrely, as the LA Times reported, he had a reputation for friend-requesting people in the Sutherland Springs area for the sole purpose of starting online fights with them.
Before he decided to commit the largest act of mass violence in modern Texas history, he’d been living with his second wife and their toddler son in a barn on his family’s property in New Braunfels, TX and working as an unarmed security guard at a nearby resort, AP News reported. Neighbors told the Washington Post that while they often heard gunfire coming from Kelley’s property, that wasn’t terribly unusual in rural Texas.
Disturbingly, The Heavy reported that Kelley’s LinkedIn page lists him as a former children’s Sunday school teacher for kids aged 4-6 years old and features “children” and “human rights” among causes he cares about.
“I am a hard working dedicated person,” his bio read. “I live by he core values on which the Air Force go by.”
If you or another veteran are having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 to talk to the Veterans Crisis Line.