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Air Force Secretary: Texas Shooter's Offenses Should Have Been Reported to FBI


Gen. David L. Goldfein, chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson speak during a news briefing at the Pentagon, Nov. 9, 2017.

The secretary of the Air Force has launched a "full-scale review" of this week's mass shooting in Texas, admitting Thursday that the domestic abuse offenses for which former Airman Devin Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 "should have been reported" to the FBI.

"Since Sunday night, the Air Force inspector general has talked to about 100 people involved in this case," Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told reporters Thursday at the Pentagon. "We are looking at all of our databases, and if we have problems that we find, we will fix them."

Air Force Chief General David Goldfein expressed heartfelt condolences to the community of Sutherland Springs, Texas, which is less than 75 kilometers (47 miles) from two Air Force bases.

He said 12 of the 26 people killed at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs had ties to the Air Force, either as airmen or as family members, and he vowed to travel to San Antonio next week to speak with those in the community who were affected.

Kelley killed 26 people at the church on Sunday. He shot himself in the head after being wounded by a neighbor and chased by the neighbor and police.

Troubled past

The Air Force is investigating why Kelley's 2012 domestic violence conviction was not properly entered into the FBI's database, as required by federal law and the Pentagon.

FILE - Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, involved in the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, is shown in this undated Texas Department of Safety driver license photo, provided Nov. 6, 2017.
FILE - Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, involved in the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, is shown in this undated Texas Department of Safety driver license photo, provided Nov. 6, 2017.

Authorities say that measure should have stopped him from legally buying the rifle he used in the massacre.

Wilson said a draft report on the case was expected "sometime next week."

Kelley previously had been court-martialed for beating his wife and stepson, convicted, sentenced to 12 months in prison, discharged from the military for bad conduct and handed a reduction in rank.

Also, police reported that in 2012, Kelley escaped from a psychiatric hospital in New Mexico, where he was confined after making threats against commanders and sneaking guns onto an Air Force base. Police later picked him up in Texas.

Investigation

Christopher Combs, the FBI agent leading the probe into the shooting, said the killer's cellphone has been sent to an FBI laboratory for examination, but that so far, because of encryption, investigators had been unable to crack it open to determine whether he made contact with anyone else about the shooting or left any information indicating that he was about to attack.

The gunman had sent "threatening texts" to his mother-in-law before the shooting, investigators said, but she was not at Sunday's service.

"This was not racially motivated ... wasn't over religious beliefs. There was a domestic situation going on within the family and in-laws," said Freeman Martin, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman.

Vice President Mike Pence paid tribute to the victims, survivors and their families on Wednesday.

FILE - Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, talk with first responders, family, friends and victims outside the First Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Nov. 8, 2017,
FILE - Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, talk with first responders, family, friends and victims outside the First Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Nov. 8, 2017,

"The cherished names of the fallen will live in the hearts ... of every American forever," Pence said at a special prayer service that drew about 3,000 people to the football field of Floresville High School.

He stepped onto the football field after an emotional and tear-filled meeting in the school library with about 80 of the victims' relatives. He was joined by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott and their wives.

Pence also met with first responders, police and a Sutherland Springs citizen who confronted the gunman, forcing him to flee and perhaps saving many more lives.

Before going to Sutherland Springs, Pence comforted 10 of the critically wounded survivors being treated at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

VOA's Peter Heinlein contributed to this report.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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