Air Force Didn't Alert FBI to Texas Church Shooter's Criminal Past

Pastor Frank Pomeroy hugs his wife Sherri near his First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 6, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) -- Getty Images
Pastor Frank Pomeroy hugs his wife Sherri near his First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 6, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) -- Getty Images

The Air Force and the Pentagon's inspector general office are reviewing how the service handled discharging Devin P. Kelley, including why it didn't alert the FBI to the Texas church shooter's criminal past, officials said Monday.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein have directed a "complete review of the Kelley case by the Air Force Office of the Inspector General," spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement.

"Initial information indicates that Kelley's domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base [New Mexico] Office of Special Investigations," Stefanek said.

The center is part of the FBI and an electronic clearinghouse of crime data that can be tapped into by virtually every criminal justice agency, according to its website.

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Error Led to Gun Purchase

Because the agency wasn't aware of his criminal record, Kelley was able to buy an assault rifle-style weapon used in Sunday's mass shooting, described as the deadliest to occur in Texas.

According to a law enforcement official who spoke to CNN, Kelley purchased a Ruger AR-556 rifle in April 2016 from an Academy Sports & Outdoors store in San Antonio.

Kelley did not disclose his bad conduct discharge or criminal past, the official said.

Armed with the Ruger and wearing black tactical gear, Kelley entered First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, around 11:20 a.m. Sunday and started shooting congregants during the service, killing at least 26 people and wounded numerous others.

He was later found dead after a car chase with a bystander and another man.

History of Domestic Abuse

Kelley's time in the service was cut short due to domestic abuse, including accusations he repeatedly pointed a loaded firearm at his then-wife, which led to a court-martial and bad-conduct discharge.

In 2012, he was charged with five specifications under Article 128 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for assaulting his spouse and their child. According to newly released court documents provided by the Pentagon on Monday, Kelley only plead guilty to two specifications during his General Court Martial at Holloman early November 2012.

Sometime between June 2011 and April 2012, Kelley unlawfully struck his wife by beating her with his hands, kicking her, as well as choking her and forcefully pulling her hair, according to the documents.

The second specification details that Kelley beat a child under the age of 16, "by striking him [with his hands] on the head and body with a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm" between April 2011 and June 2011, the documents show.

Pointed Loaded Gun at Wife

Yet in his pretrial agreement -- taking a plea deal before sentencing -- three of the five specifications were dropped before his sentence was handed down by a military jury.

The plea deal was orchestrated between Kelley, his attorney, and the convening authority, then-Lt. Gen Robin Rand, who at the time was the 12th Air Force commander, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. Rand is now the head of Air Force Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

The jury would never see that three charges, which were withdrawn and dismissed with prejudice after arraignment, described the act of assault by unlawfully striking a child on the body with his hands between April and June 2011; in that same timeframe, pointing a loaded firearm at his wife between; and pointing an unloaded firearm in April 2012, the documents say.

Two other specifications under an additional Article 128 charge would be dismissed: Between January and April 2012, Kelley assaulted his wife again by pointing a loaded firearm. In that same timeframe, Kelley also pointed an unloaded firearm. The two additional withdrawn specifications were also dismissed with prejudice.

Kelley was sentenced in November of that year to 12 months' confinement at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and reduction to an E-1 rank; the bad conduct discharge was executed in April 2014.

A Misstep

Air Force officials told that the bad conduct discharge stipulated Kelley would never be allowed to purchase a firearm legally due to the nature of the assault: domestic abuse.

The service reiterated there was a misstep.

The New York Times reported Kelley was sued for divorce in 2012 in New Mexico. The news organization also reported that he grew up in New Braunfels, Texas, in a nearly $1 million home owned by his parents.

A couple of years later, Kelley remarried, according to Texas public records.

On April 4, 2014, Kelley, then 23, married Danielle L. Shields, then 19, in Comal County, which is part of the San Antonio-New Braunfels metropolitan area, according to public records maintained by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Authorities are investigating reports that Shields or her family were targeted in the shooting. They weren't in attendance during Sunday's service.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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