On Sunday, police in Texas say, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a town of about 400 located outside of San Antonio, armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and opened fire on parishioners as they worshipped. Kelley fled the scene, leaving at least 26 dead and another 20 injured. One of his victims, authorities said on Monday was Lula White, his 71-year-old grandmother-in-law, CNN reported.
He was later found dead in his car from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The Associated Press reported that one of those killed in the attack was Crystal Holcombe, who was eight months pregnant. Three of Holcombe’s children and her in-laws also died in the shooting. About half of the victims in shooting were children, NBC News reported. Rylan Ward, 5, was shot four times and his stepmother, whom he was attending church with was killed. He was clinging to life after getting out of surgery, according to The Daily Beast.
Investigators said the motive appears to have stemmed from an apparent domestic dispute. The AP reported that in the hours prior to the attack, Kelley had sent his mother-in-law, who is a parishioner at church, threatening text messages. However, his mother-in-law was not in the church at the time of the shooting. Instead, White, the grandmother of Kelley’s wife, Danielle, was worshiping in the church when the gunfire erupted. “My sister was a wonderful, caring person — a God-loving person. She loved the people in her church. They were all her best friends,” a tearful Mary Mishler Clyburn told The New York Daily News. “I miss her badly already. We texted every day. We loved each other to the moon and back.”
In the hours after the massacre, troubling details about Kelley’s life have emerged. According to The San Antonio Express-News, Kelley served in the Air Force but was court-martialed in 2012 and guilty of domestic violence. He’d assaulted his wife and young child, the court-martial found, and sentenced him to 12 months of confinement and gave him a “bad discharge” from the Air Force. In 2014, Kelley appealed the ruling but lost, The New York Times reported. “He assaulted his stepson severely enough that he fractured his skull, and he also assaulted his wife,” retired colonel Don Christensen, who was the chief prosecutor for the Air Force, told the Times. “He pled to intentionally doing it.”
President Trump, addressing the tragedy while on a state visit in Japan, said the massacre resulted from a “mental health problem at the highest level” and described Kelley as a “very deranged individual.” He also downplayed the idea that attacked was fueled by a “a guns situation,” the Times reported.
It’s unclear how Kelley was able to obtain such a powerful weapon. CNN reported Monday that Kelley had at one point been denied a license to carry a firearm in Texas. But the revelations about Kelley’s history of domestic violence dovetails, as it often does, with gun violence. A study published last year found that a staggering 4.5 million women have been threatened with gun violence by their significant others, and a separate study found that women are 100 times more likely to be killed by a firearm than protected by one. By Monday morning, with the sorrow of another mass shooting shocking and overwhelming the nation once again, many took to social media to ask a simple question: Why aren’t lawmakers aren’t at least addressing the link between domestic violence and gun violence in the federal gun laws?