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Texas gunman escaped mental health facility in 2012, threatened military superiors

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott embraces a woman during a candlelight vigil held for the victims of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman/TNS)
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The gunman who killed 26 people at a Texas church last weekend escaped a mental health facility in 2012 and made death threats to his superiors in the U.S. Air Force, according to newly revealed El Paso, Texas, police records.

The Comal County Sheriff’s Office also announced Tuesday that gunman Devin Kelley had been accused of sexual assault in 2013, though the case was dropped.

The new revelations show Kelley had a documented history of erratic behavior and violence when he was allowed to buy four guns between 2014 and 2017, apparently because of the Air Force’s failure to report his history of domestic abuse to background-check databases used by gun dealers.

Kelley had previously attended the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, but the pastor “did not think that he was a good person and did not want him around his church,” Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said on Tuesday.

The new details about Kelley’s mental health issues came in El Paso police records first obtained by Houston’s KPRC-TV, which were filed after Kelley disappeared from the Peak Behavioral Health Services center in Santa Teresa, N.M., on June 13, 2012.

Kelley “suffered from mental health disorders” and had apparently been sent to the facility during his Air Force court-martial proceedings on charges of beating his wife and his stepson in 2011 and 2012, according to the police records.

An incident report described Kelley as “a danger to himself and others as he had already been caught sneaking firearms onto Holloman Air Force Base” in New Mexico and that he concocted a plan to use a bus to escape the mental health facility.

Kelley would later be found guilty of beating his wife and stepson, and he spent a year in a military brig and received a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force in 2014.

Ten victims remained in critical condition Tuesday.

FBI unable to break into
gunman’s cellphone

The FBI has been unable to access Kelley’s phone, officials said Tuesday, voicing their frustration with the tech industry as they try to gather evidence about Kelley’s motive for killing 26 churchgoers in Sutherland Springs.

“With the advance of the technology and the phones and the encryptions, law enforcement — whether that’s at the state, local or federal level — is increasingly not able to get into these phones,” Christopher Combs, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Antonio
bureau, said in a televised news conference.

Combs declined to say what type of phone Kelley had, “because I don’t want to tell every bad guy out there what phone to buy.”

Investigators believe he acted alone and was not motivated by any political or religious agenda, but perhaps by a domestic argument Kelley had with his mother-in-law, who attends the church but was not present during the attack.

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