HOUSTON (AP/KXAN) — The family of one of the victims in a shooting that killed 26 people at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs filed a claim on Tuesday against the U.S. Air Force, alleging the military branch’s failure to report the criminal history of the gunman to an FBI database — used to check the backgrounds of prospective gun buyers — helped cause their loved one’s death.
The administrative claim filed by Joe Holcombe, who lost eight members of his family, including his son Bryan, is the first legal step that has to be taken before a lawsuit can be filed against the Air Force.
The Air Force says its failure to report the criminal history of Devin P. Kelley was part of a pattern of such lapses. But it’s not yet clear how widespread it was. In a statement Tuesday, the Air Force blamed failures in “training and compliance measures” for the lapse involving Kelley, who had been convicted of assaulting his wife and stepson in 2012.
With his Bad Conduct Discharge, Kelley was never supposed to have the right to vote again and could never legally own a firearm.
However, due to the lapse in reporting by the Air Force, he was able to purchase guns legally. Investigators said Kelley purchased two guns in Colorado and two guns in Texas since 2014. The Texas purchases happened in 2016 and 2017 at two different San Antonio Academy Sports and Outdoors stores.