Relatives of Sutherland Springs victims file claim against Air Force

Relatives of a family of eight killed during the Mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, filed a wrongful death claim against the U.S. Air Force for neglecting to report gunman Devin Kelley's domestic violence conviction to a federal agency. Photo by Larry W. Smith/EPA

Nov. 29 (UPI) — Relatives of a family of eight who were killed during the deadly mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, have filed a wrongful death claim against the U.S. Air Force.

Joe and Claryce Holcombe allege the Air Force’s negligence in not reporting gunman Devin Kelley’s domestic violence conviction to a federal agency “directly caused this horrific tragedy” by allowing him to acquire the weapons used in the shooting.

The couple’s son J.B. Holcombe, 60, and seven other members of their family including a pregnant woman were killed in the shooting.

“Although [Kelley] undoubtedly ‘pulled the trigger’ that resulted in injuries and death of J.B. Holcombe and others, the failures of the U.S. Air Force, and others, allowed the shooter to purchase, own and/or possess the semiautomatic rifle, ammunition and body armor he used,” the claim states.

Kelley was discharged from the U.S. Air Force for bad conduct after he was convicted in 2012 of assaulting his former wife and their child and served one year in military prison.

The Air Force confirmed Tuesday it failed to report Kelley’s domestic violence conviction to the federal gun background-check database, following a review by the Inspector General.

“The review also found the error in the Kelley case was not an isolated incident and similar reporting lapses occurred at other locations,” the Air Force said. “Although policies and procedures requiring reporting were in place, training and compliance measures were lacking.”

A total of 60,000 incidents involving Air Force service members since 2002 that should’ve potentially been reported to the federal background-check database are being reveiwed by Air Force officials, according to the New York Times.

“Air Force officials are correcting all identified deficiencies as they are discovered and reporting them to civilian law enforcement,” the Air Force said. “The full review will be completed over the next several months.”


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