Terror in Texas: Gunman Opens Fire on Church Service

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BY NICHOLAS DIMARTINO

STAFF REPORTER

On Sunday Nov. 5, a gunman by the name of Devin Kelley killed 26 people and injured 20 at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Kelley served in the United States Air Force (USAF) from 2010-2014 until he was dishonorably discharged for abusing his wife and child.

This history of domestic violence would have prevented him from obtaining a firearm, but the USAF failed to report the information to the FBI. The military admitted their mistake the day after the shooting.

“I think what we have is an individual who exhibits power and control over others in order to achieve his goal. Power and control is at the core of each of his dysfunctional and dangerous behaviors; domestic violence, child abuse, animal cruelty, sexual assault allegations,” said social work professor Ken Mysogland.

Kelley was involved in two instances of domestic violence, one of which occurred in 2012 when he choked his girlfriend and fractured her son’s skull.

NBC News reported that this was the reason he was court-martialed from the Air Force. In 2014, Kelley was charged with animal cruelty after beating his dog and was ultimnately discharged.

The youngest victim of the shooting at the First Baptist Church was 18 months old and the oldest was 77. One of the victims was a pregnant woman. There were eight minors killed in the massacre, the most since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

“It would be crucial to know why he was there, if a diagnosis was made, how the professionals viewed his actions and what course of treatment was recommended,” said Mysogland.

Kelley’s mother-in-law attends the church, but wasn’t there when the shooting took place. However, CNN reported that the grandmother of Kelley’s wife was present and killed in the massacre.

Texas resident Stephen Willeford exchanged gunfire with Kelley. Willeford, a former NRA instructor, ran barefoot across the street to confront the gunman. As Kelley fled the scene, Willeford and Johnny Langendorff, 27, chased Kelley in a truck until the shooter crashed his car.

Kelley was found dead in his vehicle with three gunshot wounds, two of which came from Willeford’s gun. The third was found in Kelley’s head, and is said to be self-inflicted.

“There was no thinking about it. There was just doing. That was the key to all this. Act now. Ask questions later,” said Langendorff.

According to Freeman Martin, Regional Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Kelley parked his car at a gas station across the street from the church before he opened fire.   

“I knew every one of those shots represented someone, that it was aimed at someone, that they weren’t just random shots,” said Willeford.

Prior to the shooting, Kelley sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law.

“This is another example of how crucial it is that members in the community, especially family members, are educated on how to recognize and understand domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and untreated mental health issues,” said Mysogland.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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