UPDATED July 9, 2021: U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez ruled that the United States Air Force was 60% responsible for Texas’s worst mass shooting to date that took place at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs during a Sunday morning worship service in 2017.
The federal judge in San Antonio wrote that former serviceman Devin Kelley, who was responsible for the shooting that claimed 26 people (including an unborn baby), had not been entered into a criminal database that would have prevented him from legally purchasing the firearms he used. Judge Rodriguez said it was the U.S. Air Force that failed to follow the law.
Judge Rodriguez wrote: “The trial conclusively established that no other individual, not even Kelley’s own parents or partners, knew as much as the United States about the violence that Devin Kelley had threatened to commit and was capable of committing.”
Approximately 450 rounds of ammunition was fired at worshipers by the former Air Force serviceman three years after he was discharged for bad conduct. Kelley was convicted of cracking his stepson’s skull and assaulting his former wife. The domestic violence felony conviction was not filed into the FBI database, which would have prevented him from legally purchasing firearms and body armor.
Kelley purchased four firearms in 2014 after his discharge. He carred three of those firearms into the church the day he killed 26 people, some of whom were children.
“It is more likely than not that Kelley would have been deterred from carrying out the church shooting,” Judge Rodriguez wrote, had the U.S. Air Force properly filed the felony conviction.
In 2018, a government report showed that the U.S. Air Force failed six times to report Kelley’s information to the FBI.
An upcoming trial stemming from a lawsuit against the federal government filed by the survivors and victims’ family members will determine the damages owed.
First Baptist of Sutherland Springs dedicated a new building in spring of 2019, a year and a half after the deadly shooting took place. Pastor Frank Pomeroy said, “Evil’s going to continue to lose. We are moving forward. There are still highs and lows, but I think even on the lows, we’re still climbing.”
ChurchLeaders original article written on November 5, 2017, below:
At least 26 people have died and about 20 are injured after a gunman opened fire today during a service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. To the tight-knit congregation of about 50, this is an inconceivable blow.
“We heard semi-automatic gunfire… we’re only about 50 yards away from this church,” a witness, Carrie Matula, told NBC News.
According to witnesses at the gas station across the street from the church, the gunshots started at 11:15 am central time on November 5, 2017. Within minutes of the first gunshot, emergency personnel were on the scene. FBI agents have also arrived.
While an official statement on the succession of events has not yet been released, police have confirmed the shooter died while attempting to flee. It is unknown whether he was killed by police or himself.
The pastor of First Baptist, Frank Pomeroy, spoke to ABC News after the shooting. Pomeroy was out of town when the shooting happened, a rare occurrence for the pastor. He confirmed his 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was one of the victims. Considering its small size, everyone who died in this pastor’s church was a close friend of his.
Another pastor, Paul Buford of River Oaks Church located in Sutherland Springs, told reporters his congregation heard of the incident while they were also gathered in worship. “We have some first responders in our church who immediately left and went down there. And then my church went to do what we do—we started praying… we knew the best thing we could do was stay out of the way,” Buford said.
The community of Sutherland Springs was quick to gather to pray, although the prayers were understandably halting and interrupted by expressions of grief.
One reporter on the scene shared this clip of a group attempting to pray.
Families in tears wait to see if their family and friends are safe. Praying for the safety of all those involved. pic.twitter.com/yjzK7lZJ1S
— Max Massey (@MaxMasseyTV) November 5, 2017