Did Air Force Mistake Allow Texas Gunman To Get His Hands On Weapons?

Authorities Say There Was A 'Domestic Situation' Going Within Suspect's Family

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Air Force is investigating why the Texas church killer wasn’t red flagged after he was court-martialed.

Authorities on Monday said the deadly mass shooting at a Texas church that left 26 people dead was a “domestic situation.”

As TV 10/55’s Tony Aiello reported, it may have also been a deadly mistake.

Because of his military conviction, Devin Patrick Kelley wasn’t supposed to be allowed to buy or possess weapons.

Regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Freeman Martin, said 26-year-old  Kelley’s mother-in-law attended the church and had received threatening text messages from him.

“We want to get that out there that this was not racially motivated, it was not over religious beliefs,” Martin said at a news conference Monday. “There was a domestic situation with the family and in-laws.”

PHOTOS: Texas Church Massacre

Authorities said the ages of the 26 victims range from 18 months to 77 years. They were shot and killed during services at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in what has become the worst mass shooting in Texas history.

Twenty others were also hurt. Authorities said Monday that 10 remain in critical condition, four are in serious condition and six are in stable condition or have been released.

Eight of the victims were related to John Holcombe. His pregnant wife Crystal was killed along with three of their children, and his parents Bryan and Karla, his brother Danny, and Danny’s 18-month-old daughter Noah Grace.

Also killed was Lula White, the grandmother of the gunman’s wife Danielle.

Kelley received a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force for assaulting his spouse and child and was sentenced to 12 months’ confinement after a 2012 court-martial.

He served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his 2014 discharge, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.

Martin said Monday that Kelley did not have a license to carry, but “did have a non-commissioned unarmed private security license, similar to a security guard.”

Speaking earlier Monday on “CBS This Morning,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Kelley was a person who had “violent tendencies” and said he was a “powder keg seeming ready to go off.”

“This was a man who had some mental health issues apparently long before this, even long before he enlisted in the Air Force,” Abbot said. “He was dishonorably discharged, so this was a person who had mental challenges at the time that this happened.”

When asked how Kelley was able to purchase a gun in the state of Texas, Abbott said that current law should have prevented him from being able to get a gun.

“Before he made this purchase, he tried to get a gun permit in the state of Texas and he was denied that permit,” Abbott said. “Under the current system of federal law, he should have been prevented from being to able to make this purchase so how it got through the cracks, I don’t have that information.”

Authorities said he was wearing black tactical gear and a ballistic vest when he pulled into a gas station across from the church. Police say he began shooting before he entered the church then proceeded to shoot most, if not all, of the people inside.

“It was just so much gunfire,” said witness Kathleen Cornew. “I couldn’t watch. I knew what was happening. I couldn’t bear to see it.”

Martin said Monday that a local resident who lives across the street from the church heard what was going on, armed himself, and then engaged with the suspect.

“They engaged in gunfire here at the church. We know that the suspect was shot,” Martin said. “When he dropped his assault rifle, jumped into his Ford Expedition and fled the scene, this good Samaritan, our Texas hero, flagged down another young man from Sabine, Texas and jumped in his vehicle and they pursued the suspect.”

Johnnie Langendorff said he and that neighbor were the ones who chased after the gunman.

“The gentleman with the rifle came to my truck as the shooter took off and he briefly, he briefed me quickly on what had just happened,” Langendorff said. “We hit about 95 going down 539 trying to catch this guy until he eventually lost control on his own and went off in the ditch.”

Martin said during the chase, Kelley called his father to tell him he had been shot and “didn’t think he was going to make it.”

“Subsequently, he shot himself,” Martin said.

Fred Milanowski, special agent in charge of Houston’s ATF field division, said three firearms were recovered.

“I also can confirm that all three of these firearms were purchased by the deceased suspect,” he said. “What I will tell you right now is that, in general, if an individual has a dishonorable discharge from the military, they would be prohibited from possessing or purchasing firearms.”

The Air Force failed to share the information with the National Crime Information Center, so in the last 18 months, Kelley was able to buy the weapons used to kill 26 people at the Church in Sutherland Springs.

CBS News has learned the suspect also worked as a bible teacher at one point, but it’s unclear at which church.

Sutherland Springs is a rural community about 35 miles east of San Antonio. On Sunday, a local resident described it as the kind of place where everybody knows everybody, including the people who were killed.

President Donald Trump, who was in Japan, called the shooting an “act of evil,” later calling the gunman “a very deranged individual.”

“I think mental health is your problem here,” the president said. “This isn’t a guns situation.”

An autopsy shows Kelley had three gunshot wounds; two in the leg from Willeford and one self-inflicted.

At the church, investigators have recovered 15 empty rifle magazines each capable of holding 30 rounds.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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