The stories coming out of the massacre in the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, are horrific and heartbreaking.
The shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, walked into the church dressed in combat gear and killed congregants in the pews. One survivor reported that Kelley became enraged that children were scared, and shot them multiple times.
Kelley executed 26 people that day, including nine children. Eight members of one extended family were killed. Twenty more churchgoers were injured.
Authorities release IDs of Texas church victims, on ABCnews.go.com
Afterwards, of course, everyone is asking, “How did this happen?” “Were there any warning signs?”
The answer is YES! There were multiple warning signs. Here’s what is known about Devin Kelley:
- Kelley, when he was 18, dated a 13-year-old girl. When she broke up with him, he tried desperately to get her back, including offering to pay her to live with him and his wife as a topless maid.
- Kelley joined the Air Force after high school, and later attempted to carry out death threats against his military commanders.
- Kelley was convicted by the military of domestic violence towards his first wife and beating his 11-month old stepson, fracturing the boy’s skull.
- Kelley was investigated for rape and sexual assault, although no charges were filed.
- Kelley pleaded guilty to animal abuse. He also told a friend that he bought dogs on Craigslist to use for target practice.
- Kelley had a fascination with mass shootings and thought the 2015 murder of nine worshippers in a South Carolina church was “cool.”
- Kelley posted troubling messages on Facebook and sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law — including on the morning of the shooting.
The following article from the Daily Mail includes a timeline of Kelley’s violent behavior.
Kelley definitely engaged in antisocial behavior, and at least one expert identified it as psychopathic. USA Today reported:
“Everything we know about domestic violence predicted this could happen,” said Lori Post, a researcher at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine who studies domestic violence. “This is not mental illness. He has a personality disorder, and that disorder is consistent with psychopathy, given prior charges of domestic violence, animal abuse and sexual predatory behavior.”
The problem, as Lori Post explains, is that our legal system is set up to view all crimes as separate incidents, not as a pattern of behavior. So although there were plenty of warning signs that Devin Kelley was dangerous, we have no mechanism in our society to connect the dots and protect ourselves.
And that’s why this terrible massacre was possible.