Jul 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Federal judge rules Air Force is mainly responsible for Texas church shooting

The memorial crosses for the victims of the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church shooting.
Memorial crosses for the victims of the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Nov. 11, 2017. Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the U.S. Air Force holds most of the responsibility for the 2017 mass shooting in a Texas church, according to court documents.

The big picture: The decision from U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez in San Antonio states that the Air Force holds 60% of the responsibility for the shooting because it failed to enter the shooter's criminal history into a federal background check database used for gun purchases.

Catch up fast: Devin Kelley, the 26-year-old gunman, was convicted in 2012 for domestic violence against his wife and infant son. He was sentenced to a year in jail, which should have prevented him from purchasing the gun.

  • Kelley opened fire during a Sunday service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in 2017. He killed 26 people before dying of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
  • Last month, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that survivors and families of victims can't sue the gun retailer that sold the weapon.

What they're saying: “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 wrote, per WSJ.

  • “Moreover, the evidence shows that—had the Government done its job and properly reported Kelley’s information into the background check system—it is more likely than not that Kelley would have been deterred from carrying out the Church shooting,” he added.
Go deeper