The gunman accused of committing the deadliest mass shooting in modern Texas history sent threatening texts to his mother-in-law before targeting the church where she sometimes worshiped, authorities said on Monday.
Devin Kelley, 26, opened fire on the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs on Sunday, killing 26 people and wounded 20 others. He was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“It’s a senseless crime, but we can tell you that there was a domestic situation going on within this family,” said Freeman Martin, the regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. “He had expressed anger toward his mother-in-law.”
As information has emerged about Kelley’s background, he appears to share a common trait with many American mass shooters: a history of domestic violence.
In 2012, Kelley, who served at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, was court-martialed for assault on his spouse and assault on a child. That year, his then-wife filed for divorce, according to court records. He was sentenced to 12 months behind bars, and received a bad conduct discharge. In 2014 he was remarried, the New York Times reports.
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His conviction should have barred him from legally purchasing firearms, according to military law experts who spoke with HuffPost. Under the Lautenberg amendment, individuals who are convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor are prohibited from owning or buying guns.
It is unclear how Kelley was able to legally buy a firearm given his domestic violence record.
While the military’s penal system doesn’t use the term “misdemeanor” or “felony,” convictions involving domestic violence typically trigger the gun ban, explained Rachel VanLandingham, a professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles.
“This case is tragic because it sure seems like this is the poster child for whom the Lautenberg amendment was supposed to be written,” she said.
According to a law enforcement official who spoke to CNN, Kelley bought a Ruger AR-556 rifle from a gun store in San Antonio in 2016. It is unclear if he passed a background check. He reportedly checked a box to indicate he did not have disqualifying criminal history.
In the U.S., most mass shootings involve domestic violence, according to research from Everytown for Gun Safety, which defines a mass shooting as a single incident in which four or more people are fatally shot, not including the perpetrator.
Between 2009 and 2016, in 54 percent of mass shootings the perpetrator shot a current or former intimate partner or family member. Everytown also found that in nearly half of these cases, the perpetrator exhibited warning signs before the killing, such as recent acts of violence, threats or violation of a protective order.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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