Federal judge says US Air Force is responsible for 2017 mass shooting at Texas church

The mass shooting that took place at a Sutherland Springs, Texas church in 2017 was one of the deadliest in history, as 26 people lost their lives and another 22 people were injured at the hands of a lone gunman, who happened to be a former member of the U.S. Air Force.

According to the Washington Examiner, numerous family members of the victims and some of the survivors of the mass shooting have spent years in court attempting to prove that the killer, Devin Patrick Kelley, shouldn’t have been able to purchase the firearm that he used in the killing spree, and a judge finally gave the families closure last week, ruling that the Air Force is ultimately responsible for the tragic event. 

The San Antonio-based U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez handed down the ruling, in which he decided that the Air Force is 60% responsible for the mass shooting, given that certain records pertaining to Kelley’s troubles while enlisted in the Air Force were never uploaded to a federal database.

“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,” Rodriguez’s ruling said.

“Moreover, the evidence shows that — had the Government done its job and properly reported Kelley’s information into the background check system — it is more likely than not that Kelley would have been deterred from carrying out the Church shooting,” the ruling added.

While an airman, Kelley was arrested and sentenced to a one-year stint in a military prison as a result of a domestic violence event in which he assaulted both his child and his wife at the time. He was later discharged from the service, but such a criminal record would have made any American ineligible to pass a federal background check required to purchase a firearm.

The problem is that the Air Force never uploaded Kelley’s egregious record into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which resulted in Kelley being able to pass the FBI background check when he purchased his firearm that he would later use in the mass shooting.

Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman, confirmed to the Examiner in 2017 that a specific office within the Air Force was responsible for the error. “Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations,” she wrote at the time.

The families and victims originally attempted to sue the retail store that sold Kelley his firearm, but a Texas Supreme Court judge found the store followed all procedures at the time. Perhaps now, with the latest ruling, they’ll be able to find some closure.