Texas Church Shooter Escaped Mental Health Facility After Attacking Wife, Stepson

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Devin Patrick Kelley

(CBS News) — The man who shot and killed 26 people in a Texas church Sunday was checked into and escaped from a mental health facility in New Mexico in 2012, according to a police report obtained by CBS affiliate KHOU.

Devin Kelley was sent to the Peak Behavioral Health Services Center in Santa Teresa, New Mexico after multiple incidents in which he beat his wife and stepson, who suffered a fractured skull in one attack, while Kelley was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base. But on June 13, 2012, Kelley escaped from the center, fleeing to El Paso, Texas, according to the report.

Police warned that Kelley “was a danger to himself and others as he had already been caught sneaking firearms” onto the base, where he “was attempting to carry out death threats that (he) had made on his military chain of command.”

El Paso police arrested Kelley without incident at a bus stop and turned him over to New Mexico police. The report notes he did not make any threatening statements during his arrest.

Kelley served a year in confinement for the assaults on his wife and stepson, and in 2014 received a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force, which was supposed to notify the FBI of his domestic violence conviction. Kelley should have been barred from buying the weapons used in Sunday’s shooting, according to Don Christensen, who at the time was the Air Force’s top prosecutor, told CBS News Monday.

The Air Force acknowledged Monday that it failed to flag Kelley as banned from buying firearms. The Air Force said it has launched a review of how the service handled Kelley’s criminal records.

Texas authorities say Kelley did not have a license to carry firearms. However, Kelley purchased four weapons in total during the years 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. Two were bought in Colorado and two in Texas, ATF officials said. Three weapons were recovered at the scene of the shooting — a Ruger AR-556 rifle found at the church, and two handguns, a Glock 9mm and a Ruger 22, found in his car, according to Fred Milanowski, special agent in charge of the ATF Houston.

Academy Sports, a Texas store where Kelley bought two weapons, confirmed in a statement to CBS News Monday that Kelley’s purchases were approved by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

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