Dec. 8 (UPI) — The U.S. Air Force failed to notify the FBI about six incidents that would have prevented the Sutherland Springs, Texas, shooter from purchasing a gun, a watchdog report said Friday.
The Inspector General of the Defense Department said if the Air Force had followed its own protocol, it would have submitted Devin Patrick Kelley’s fingerprints to the FBI background check database four times in relation to his court martial conviction on domestic assault charges. The military branch also should have submitted two reports on Kelley’s final disposition.
On Nov. 5, 2017, Kelley started shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, about 35 miles southeast of San Antonio, killing 26 people. A civilian shot Kelley as he left the church, and while injured, he led two civilians on a high-speed chase.
Kelley’s vehicle ultimately crashed, and he was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds, including one self-inflicted to the head.
Had the Air Force notified the FBI of Kelley’s 2012 conviction for beating and choking his wife and striking his infant stepson, he would not have been able to buy the three firearms he used in the attack from a federally licensed dealer, the report said. Kelley was discharged from the Air Force after the conviction and served one year in military prison.
The 138-page report said Air Force officials offered no good reason for why they didn’t notify the FBI. In some instances, the inspector general found that Air Force investigators were unclear or unaware of the requirement.
“The investigators and confinement personnel had a duty to know, and should have known, the DoD and USAF fingerprint policies, and should have followed them,” the report said. “The failures had drastic consequences and should not have occurred.”
The report suggested the Air Force develop a background check process at the time of recruitment, and review the training on submitting final disposition reports and fingerprints to the FBI.
Relatives of some of the shooting victims filed a wrongful death claim against the Air Force for not reporting his conviction to the FBI.