Violence followed Texas church gunman after high school
New Braunfels, Texas — Wherever Devin Patrick Kelley went after graduating from high school, a trail of violence followed.
In New Mexico, Kelley was kicked out of the Air Force following a court-martial two years after he enlisted for abusing his wife and reportedly hitting her child hard enough to fracture his skull. In Colorado, he was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty after someone saw him punch a dog several times. And in Texas, sheriff’s deputies were called to his parents’ house after his girlfriend told a friend he was abusing her.
Authorities say Kelley opened fire Sunday at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people and wounding 20 others.
Authorities have said the suspect’s mother-in-law attended the church and she’d gotten threatening texts from him. Kelley’s parents and other relatives did not return numerous messages from The Associated Press seeking comment. But according to military officials and authorities in three states, the 26-year-old Kelley had a history of threatening loved ones with violence.
A native of the San Antonio suburb of New Braunfels, Kelley graduated from high school in 2009, according to a district spokeswoman. He enlisted in the Air Force the following year and was assigned to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, with the responsibility of moving passengers, cargo and personal property in military transportation. He got married for the first time in 2011.
But according to Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek, Kelley faced a court-martial in 2012 on allegations that he abused his wife and a child. According to court-martial documents the Air Force released Monday, Kelley was accused of choking his wife, pulling her hair and kicking her. He also hit the child on the head and body, according to the documents. The Air Force’s former chief prosecutor, Don Christensen, told The New York Times that Kelley fractured the child’s skull.
Kelley was sentenced to 12 months of confinement and ultimately removed from the military with a bad-conduct discharge and a reduction of rank.
The Air Force acknowledged Monday that it didn’t enter Kelley’s criminal history into the federal database used to conduct background checks on citizens looking to purchase a firearm. Authorities recovered a Ruger AR-556 rifle at the church and two handguns from Kelley’s vehicle. They say all three were purchased by Kelley.
His wife, Tessa Kelley, filed for divorce in 2012, the same year as the court-martial. In paperwork associated with the divorce, Tessa Kelley said she was working at Taco Bell for $7.50 an hour while Devin Kelley was in detention.
The divorce was finalized in October 2012.
Kelley’s discharge was complete in 2014, Stefanek said.
In August 2014, he was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty. One neighbor told a deputy that Kelley chased a dog, jumped on top of it and struck the dog with a closed fist several times, according to an incident report released Monday. Another neighbor says Kelley grabbed the young husky, threw it into the air, then onto the ground and dragged it to his camper.
According to local court records, he was given a deferred probationary sentence and ordered to pay $368 in restitution.
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