*11/7/17: This post has been updated with clarifying information as this story has developed
Yesterday morning in Sutherland Springs, TX a gunman opened fire on church, killing 26 people and wounding many more. The gunman later killed himself after a high-speed chase.
Yesterday morning around 11:30am, Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire with what police have identified as a Ruger AR-556 assault rifle on the congregants at the First Baptist Church outside San Antonio, TX. 26 people were killed, many children, and 20 more were injured, many critically. Immediately following the shooting there was a high-speed car chase that involved civilians who heard the gunfire. One of the civilians managed to shoot Kelley twice, and the ensuing car chase ended with Kelley crashing his car in a ditch, where he took his own life with a gunshot to the head.
There has been a lot of misleading speculation and misinformation about the shooter’s motives, and so here is what we know so far.
He was discharged dishonorably from the Air Force: Kelley served in the Air Force after graduating high school in 2009, but was dishonorably discharged in 2014. This follows other incidents of legal trouble beginning in 2012 when he was court-martialed for assaulting his wife. His wife filed for divorce the same year. He was reduced in rank and served time in military prison before being discharged two years later for behavioral issues.
He escaped from a mental health facility: With all the trouble in 2012, it has also been revealed that during that time he spent time in a mental health facility, which he later escaped from. He was apparently placed in the mental health facility after it was determined that he was sneaking weapons onto an air force base in an "attempt to carry out death threats."
Kelley was able to purchase firearms because the Air Force failed to follow proper procedure: Air Force officials admitted that protocols were not followed. Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek stated, “Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database.”
Yesterday’s events were tragic, to be sure. Many people lost their lives, lost loved ones, and are recovering from severe wounds. But our response should not be to invent wild claims and deliberately spread misinformation. The United States’ problems with mass shootings are going to need rational discourse if we hope to ever address the issue responsibly. And the survivors of the tragedy, and the family of the victims, will need real help to move forward.
*Updates to this story include clarification on how David Patrick Kelley died following a car chase from the church, as well as information on his time in a mental facility and that the Air Force failed to follow protocols which would have blocked Kelley from purchasing firearms.