Texas church shooting: Gunman previously escaped mental health center

  • Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
3:21 p.m Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 National/World News

The man who gunned down dozens of churchgoers gathered Sunday at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, previously escaped from a mental health facility in New Mexico in what was believed to be an attempt to make good on threats made against his superiors in the U.S. Air Force, according to a police incident report.

The report was obtained by KPRC and published Tuesday.

El Paso police were called on June 7, 2012, after Devin Patrick Kelley, then 21 years old, escaped from the Peak Behavioral Health Services facility in Saint Teresa, New Mexico, according to the report. He was later found at a bus terminal and taken into custody without incident.

A witness told police that Kelley "suffered from mental disorders and had plans to run from Peak Behavioral Health Services ... and take a bus out of state."

The witness warned police that Kelley was a believed to be a danger to himself and others.

"He had already been caught sneaking fire arms onto Hollaman Airforce base," the incident report said. The witness told police that Kelley "was attempting to carry out death threats that (he) had made on his military chain of command."

Kelley was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico in 2012.

Citing Air Force records, The New York Times reported Monday that Kelley pleaded guilty in 2012 to assaulting his wife and intentionally breaking his infant stepson's skull. 

The newspaper reported that Kelley was sentenced to 12 months’ confinement and reduction to the lowest possible rank. After his release, he received a bad-conduct discharge from the military.

Investigators said that Sunday’s attack came after Kelley sent threats to his mother-in-law, who sometimes attended First Baptist Church. She was not at the church when Kelley opened fire, authorities said.

Those slain in Sunday’s shooting included eight members of a single family. Investigators said those killed ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years old.

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