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Who is Devin Patrick Kelley, the gunman officials say killed churchgoers in Sutherland Springs, Tex.?

By Eli Rosenberg, Derek Hawkins, Julie Tate

November 6, 2017 at 12:45 PM

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Law enforcement identified 26-year-old Devin Kelley as the gunman who killed dozens at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., on Nov. 5. (Amber Ferguson, Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — The gunman suspected of opening fire at this town’s First Baptist Church Sunday was a former U.S. Air Force airman who had a string of legal troubles beginning in at least 2012, when he was court-martialed and sentenced to a year in military prison for assaulting his wife and child.

Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, killed more than two dozen people before fleeing the scene and apparently taking his own life, authorities said. Police said Monday morning that the shooting followed a “domestic situation” and that at least one of his relatives attended the church he targeted.

While authorities offered no specific motive, the details help fill in the patchwork profile emerging of Kelley in the aftermath of the country’s most recent deadly mass shooting.

Devin Patrick Kelley. (Texas Department of Safety/Handout via Reuters)

Kelley enlisted in 2010 and served as a logistical readiness airman at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told The Washington Post. Court records in nearby Alamogordo, N.M., show that in October 2012, Tessa K. Kelley filed for divorce against Devin P. Kelley. The case appears to have concluded in a matter of days, with a settlement recorded the same day as the initial filing. There are no children listed in the proceedings.

Following his prison sentence, Kelley was reduced in rank and released from the military with a bad conduct discharge in 2014.

Related: [Investigators hunt for motive in Texas church shooting as the grieving spans generations]

Earlier that year, he was charged with a misdemeanor count of mistreatment, neglect or cruelty to animals in El Paso County, Colo., where he lived at one point, records show.

On Aug. 1, 2014, sheriff’s deputies responded to a call of a man who was punching a dog, police records show. Four witnesses told deputies that they saw a man matching Kelley’s description yelling at and chasing a white and brown Husky.

“The suspect then started beating on the dog with both fists, punching it in the head and chest,” a deputy wrote in the incident report. “He could hear the suspect yelling at the dog and while he was striking it, the dog was yelping and whining. The suspect then picked up the dog by the neck into the air and threw it onto the ground and then drug him away to lot 60.”

Kelley was charged with animal cruelty and the dog was transferred to the Humane Society for a full medical evaluation.

Records indicate that Kelley lived for some period on a property valued at about $800,000 owned by his parents in New Braunfels, Tex., a rural suburb of San Antonio about 35 miles north of Sutherland Springs. The secluded home sits on 28 acres of wooded farmland, separated from the nearest main road by a long private driveway.

Neighbors told local media that Kelley lived in a barn in back of the 3,700-square-foot home with his current wife and 2-year-old son. They said the family had lived there for more than a decade.

Dave Ivey, who identified himself as Kelley’s uncle, apologized to the shooting victims in an interview with NBC News.

“I never in a million years could have believed Devin could be capable of this kind of thing,” Ivey said. “My family will suffer because of his coward actions.”

Cars lined the highway outside the house at 2825 FM 2722 on Monday morning. A Comal County sheriff’s truck blocked the property’s gate, which was adorned with a “Beware of dog,” sign.

Doug, who lives across the street and declined to give his last name, said he didn’t get to know the family at all, in the 11 years he lived on the road.

“The only time I see them is when they’re going out and they don’t even look my way,” he said. He said he didn’t recognize the shooter.

He said he regularly heard gunshots coming from the property across the street but thought little of it. The noise used to shake his two small dogs, Scholtz and Gretchen, he said.

Mark Moravitz, who lives across the street from the Kelley family, also said he frequently heard gunfire coming from the property, often around 10 or 11 p.m.

“We hear a lot of gunfire a lot,” he told KSAT, “but we’re out in the country.”

Reached by phone Sunday night, several other neighbors told The Washington Post that they didn’t know the Kelley family but noted that several ranches in the area allow hunting. The sound of gunshots isn’t unusual, they said.

Related: [The other deadly church shooting in America on Sunday]

Moravitz told local media that the Kelley family traveled frequently, so he would house sit for them. He described Kelley as a “regular guy” and said it was “shocking” to hear about the shooting. “You never think your neighbor is capable of something like that,” he said. “If he did that, that kind of worries you, thinking we’ve been living next door to the guy.”

Other neighbors told KENS 5 that they would sometimes see couches, bicycles, lawn mowers and other household items along the street in front of the property, placed there as if they were free for the taking.

Officials described the shooter’s weapon as a Ruger AR-556, an assault-style rifle similar to those used by the military. CNN, citing a law enforcement individual, reported that Kelley purchased the weapon in April 2016 from an Academy Sports & Outdoors store in San Antonio.

A Facebook page bearing Kelley’s name showed a photo of a Ruger assault-style rifle. The page was taken down at some point on Sunday. The Los Angeles Times reported that in recent months Kelley had started adding strangers from the Sutherland Springs area as Facebook friends and picking fights with them.

Johnathan Castillo told the Times that he accepted Kelley’s friend request a couple months ago, but deleted it soon after. Castillo said of Kelley: “It’s like he went looking for it, you know what I mean?”

Attempts to reach members of Kelley’s immediate family were unsuccessful late Sunday night.

During the evening, Texas Rangers and a K-9 vehicle were staked out in front of the family’s house, according to local media. Deputies were reportedly guarding the entrance to the home.

Hawkins and Tate reported from Washington. Joel Achenbach in New Braunfels and Sandhya Somashekhar, Wesley Lowery, Alex Horton and Travis Andrews in Washington contributed to this story. 

Rev. Van Jordan, of Port Arthur, Tex., leads a group prayer while setting up crosses to honor the shooting victims along the edge of a field next to Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church.
Rebekah Weigner and Sharaell Treloar, left, and Amy Parks and Greg Zanis hug after a group prayer while crosses to honor the shooting victims are set up next to Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church.
Crosses with hearts stand along the edge of a field next to Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a vigil for victims in the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church shooting and their families at Floresville High School in Floresville, Tex.
Vice President Pence and Karen Pence sing during a vigil for victims in the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church shooting and their families at Floresville High School in Floresville, Tex.
Vice President Pence speaks during a vigil for victims in the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church shooting and their families at Floresville High School in Floresville, Tex.
The crowd listens during a vigil for victims in the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church shooting and their families at Floresville High School in Floresville, Tex.
Shooting victims and their families listen as Karen Pence says a prayer during a vigil at Floresville High School in Floresville, Tex.
Victims in the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church shooting and their families participate in a prayer during a vigil at Floresville High School in Floresville, Tex.
Sherri Pomeroy hugs Karen Pence during a vigil for victims in the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church shooting and their families at Floresville High School in Floresville, Tex.
Sen. Ted Cruz speaks with Stephen Williford, who shot at the gunman and chased him away, during a vigil for victims in the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church shooting and their families at Floresville High School in Floresville, Tex.
Vice President Pence hugs Stephen Williford, who shot at the gunman and chased him away, during a vigil for victims in the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church shooting and their families at Floresville High School in Floresville, Tex.
Investigators examine bullet holes left by a gunman in the front door of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Tex.
Law enforcement officials continue to investigate the scene of the mass shooting at First Baptist Church.
Rene Moreno holds back tears as he speaks with a Texas state trooper outside the church in Sutherland Springs.
Brenda Woldridge, left, and Meredith Cooper embrace at a memorial outside the church.
Media gather at the perimeter near First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.
Media gather near the church.
A state trooper’s vehicle sits across from the church.
Senior Corporal Stirling Pack, left, and Trooper Calven Ayala guard the road in front of the church.
Media gather outside the church.
An FBI investigator surveys the area in Sutherland Springs.
Texas state troopers walk with Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife, Sherri Pomeroy, toward the church.
An FBI team sweeps the lot next to the church.
Members of the media gather during a news conference outside the church.
Pomeroy and his wife, Sherri Pomeroy, stand with officials during the news conference.
Pomeroy hugs Precinct 1 Commissioner Albert Gamez Jr. of Wilson County after the news conference.
Flowers lie on the ground after the news conference.
Laura Torres, of San Antonio, cries as she touches one of the 26 crosses, one for each person killed in the First Baptist Church shooting.
Cheryl Martinez, of San Antonio, sings and prays during a vigil for the victims.
Families pray during a vigil for the victims.
People pray in front of 26 crosses, one for each person killed.
The church in Sutherland Springs.
Law enforcement at the church.
Sutherland Springs, with a population of about 400, is located about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio.
The area around First Baptist Church has been taped off by police.
A helicopter flies near the site of the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, a small town more than 30 miles southeast of San Antonio.
Police cars and other vehicles in Sutherland Springs.
Police vehicles block the road near Sutherland Springs after the gunman is said to have fled the scene in his car.
Law enforcement officials at the scene of the shooting.
Members of the FBI walk along the side of the church.
The flags in front of the church have been lowered to half-staff.
Law enforcement and forensic officials gather near First Baptist Church.
Investigators work at the scene of the shooting.
Police block the roads surrounding the church in Sutherland Springs. The motive of the gunman is not immediately known.
Carrie Matula embraces a woman after the fatal shooting. Matula said she heard the shooting from the gas station where she works a block away.
Families and others gather at the community center awaiting news.
People pray near the church.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott gives an update during a news conference at the Stockdale Community Center following the shooting.
People attend a vigil at First Baptist Church.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott consoles Ann Montgomery, a Sunday school teacher, at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the shooting.
Mona Rodriguez holds her 12-year-old son, J. Anthony Hernandez, during a candlelight vigil held for the victims of the shooting.
Mourners attend a candlelight vigil.
A candlelight vigil is observed at First Baptist Church.
A candlelight vigil is observed at First Baptist Church.
Flags are lowered to half-staff outside First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.
Photo Gallery: At least two dozen people are reported dead after a shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., near San Antonio. The gunman was found dead several miles away, officials say.

More on the Texas shooting:

An unlikely hero describes gun battle and 95 mph chase with Texas shooting suspect

Texas shooting: Death sweeps across 3 generations of a single family gathered at church

Investigators hunt for motive in Texas church shooting as the grieving spans generations

Watch more!
Johnnie Langendorff told The Washington Post how he helped race after the shooter who killed dozens of people on Nov. 5 in Sutherland Springs, Tex. (Dina Parkinson/The Washington Post)

Eli Rosenberg is a reporter on the Washington Post's General Assignment team. He can be reached at eli.rosenberg@washpost.com

Derek Hawkins is a reporter with The Washington Post's Morning Mix.

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