Judge Rules Air Force ‘60% Responsible’ For Texas Church Shooting That Killed 26

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Caroline Kucera Contributor
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A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the U.S. Air Force is mostly responsible for the 2017 mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, that killed 26 people.

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez claimed that the military branch was “60% responsible” for the deaths and injuries caused by shooter Devin Patrick Kelley at the massacre at the First Baptist Church, while the rest of the blame falls on Kelley, The Hill reported. The Air Force failed to exercise “reasonable care” in allowing Kelly to obtain firearms by not entering the gunman’s criminal history into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), according to The Hill.

Kelley had served nearly five years in the Air Force before being discharged in 2014 for bad conduct, The Associated Press (AP) reported. He was reportedly convicted of assaulting his former wife and stepson, as well as gravely injuring the child.

The Air Force has acknowledged that the properly reported conviction for domestic violence could have prevented Kelley from buying guns from licensed firearms dealers and from possessing body armor, according to The AP.

“The trial conclusively established that no other individual — not even Kelley’s own parents or partners — knew as much as the United States about the violence that Devin Kelley had threatened to commit and was capable of committing,” Rodriguez’s ruling read, according to The Hill. (RELATED: California Man Who Murdered 9 Discussed Killing His Coworkers)

Court documents state Kelley made four separate firearm purchases before the church attack, The Hill reported. At the time of the purchases, the background checks made through NICS showed that Kelley was eligible to do so, according to the outlet.

“Its failure approximately caused the deaths and injuries of Plaintiffs at the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church,” Rodriguez wrote.

Kelley opened fire Nov. 5, 2017, at the church in Sutherland Springs, killing 26 people and wounding 22 others. The gunman died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being chased and shot by two bystanders at the church. It was the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history, The AP noted.

Families of the victims filed a lawsuit against the federal government in 2018, citing negligence, The Hill reported. Rodriguez ordered a later trial to assess damages owed to the families in his ruling.