Update: Officials revealed Monday that Kelley had sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, who was a parishioner at First Baptist church.
Devin Patrick Kelley “made threatening texts to his mother in law who went to the church,” said Texas Department of Public Safety regional director Freeman Martin. The woman, who was not named, attends the church but was not there during the massacre Sunday, authorities said. Martin would not say whether the woman’s membership with the church motivated Kelley.
“We know that he expressed anger toward his mother-in-law.”
* * *
The deranged gunman who killed 26 churchgoers and wounded 20 more at a church in rural east Texas Sunday was an atheist who ranted on Facebook about “stupid” religious people, according to a now-deleted Facebook account that appears to be Kelley’s.
Judging by his social media presence, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley was a fan of guns; the cover photo from his Facebook profile showed an assault rifle. Meanwhile, the Sun reported that the page featured an Antifascist Action banner, which sparked speculation online about his ties to left-wing groups like Antifa.
However, since the screenshot was first circulated, a number of reports in fact-checking media have debunked it as a doctored image spread by right-wing activists. No official information about Kelley’s possible affiliation with any group or political movement has been made available.
Former classmates of the shooter described him as “creepy” and “weird.” Classmate Nina Rosa Nava write on Facebook that the mass murderer used to rant on the social network about his atheist beliefs. It has also been reported that Kelley’s in-laws attended First Baptist Church, but weren’t there at the time of the shooting.
“He was always talking about how people who believe in God were stupid and trying to preach his atheism,” Nava posted on her Facebook.
One former classmate, Christopher Leo Longoria, replied: “I removed him off FB for those same reasons! He was being super nagtive (sic) all the timd (sic).”
Another Facebook friend of the killer added: “He was weird but never that damn weird, always posting his atheist sh– like Nina wrote, but damn he always posted pics of him and his baby – crazy.”
Many of Kelley’s acquaintances said they never expected he would be capable of murder on such a destructive scale.
“There were people I knew who stayed away from this guy for many reasons, which all make sense now. He just requested me on Facebook recently,” one friend said.
Another said: “’He was the first atheist I met. He went Air Force after high school, got discharged but I don’t know why.”
As it turns out, Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 for two counts of Article 128 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, assault on his spouse and assault on their child, according to CNN. He received a bad conduct discharge as a result, confinement for 12 months and a reduction in rank. The Air Force has not released a date of the discharge.
After his stint with the US military, Kelly reportedly taught at a summer Bible school. It is unknown if he was religious or not, as a screenshot of his Facebook groups list shows he was a member of at least four groups on atheism. Kelley worked as a security guard for a Texas waterpark this past summer, according to a resume under his name that appeared online.
Kelley was married, with CBS reporting his wife’s name as Danielle Lee Shields. Information about their shared child wasn’t immediately available. Kelley purchased the Ruger AR-556 rifle in April 2016 from an Academy Sports & Outdoors store in San Antonio, a law enforcement official told CNN.
When Kelley filled out the background check paperwork at the store, he checked the box to indicate he didn’t have disqualifying criminal history, the official said. He listed an address in Colorado Springs, Colorado when he bought the rifle, the official said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday said there was a connection between the “very deranged individual” and the church where the slayings took place.
“I don’t think the church was just randomly attacked,” he said. “I think there was a reason why the shooter chose this church.”
However, Abbott said Kelley was denied a Texas gun permit.
Another classmate told Fox News that Kelley had a history of mental illness, and had been on psychiatric medication for a period.
“His parents had him on high doses of ‘psych’ meds from 6th to 9th grade, the time I knew him,” said the student, who only wished to be identified as Reid. He added that Kelley’s aggressive posts about atheism caused many of his former classmates to stop talking to, or unfriend, him. Another classmate who spoke to Fox News and wished to remain anonymous described Kelley as a quiet student, though he had his share of friends.
“He recently added me on [Facebook]. I accepted hence we went to school together, and any time I saw him on my timeline he was sharing stuff about guns and being Atheist,” she said. “He was pretty negative. The last post I remember was of a rifle.”
President Donald Trump said the Sunday church shooting “isn’t a gun situation” but rather a “mental health problem.” He called the attacker a “very deranged individual” with “a lot of problems over a long period of time.”
“We could go into [gun control policy], but it’s a little bit too soon,” he said. The president cited reports about an unnamed man who confronted the shooter, saying the attack otherwise “would have been much worse.”
Kelley was wielding an assault rifle when he went on a shooting rampage in the church, with Freeman Martin, the DPS Regional Director, saying that police discovered “multiple weapons” in his car. The shooter was reportedly wearing tactical gear, including a bulletproof vest and a black mask with a skull on it, an outfit that reportedly aroused suspicion at a gas station across the street from the Church where the shooter visited before starting his rampage. It’s unclear how he obtained the weapons because the Gun Control Act of 1968 explicitly prohibits licensed sellers from selling firearms or ammunition to persons who have “been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions.” But it appears he did in fact purchase them from a gun store despite these violations, as ABC pointed out. One CNN analyst said it’s likely the guns were fraudulently purchased. The local sheriff confirmed that Kelley shot and killed himself.
Kelley lived in nearby New Braunfels, Texas, where he had also gone to high school. Kelley fled First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs after being shot by a neighbor. In a panic, he called his father to say goodbye.
During a Monday morning press conference, a police spokesperson said investigators had discovered there was a “domestic situation” unfolding within Kelley’s family, but declined to elaborate. Police added that the deceased ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years, and that between 12 and 14 children were among the dead. Meanwhile, 10 people remain in critical condition. While they’re investigating, the shooter’s exact motive remains unclear, police said.
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