Air Force investigation called for following mass shooting


Calling it a “huge failure” and “appalling,” former lawyers and Congressional leaders called for the Air Force to review how it handled the reporting of the domestic violence conviction against the Texas man accused of killing 26 Sunday in a mass church shooting.

The Air Force said it is investigating why it apparently failed to notify the FBI’s national crime center about a domestic violence conviction against former airman, Devin P. Kelley, 26, which would have barred him from from buying or possessing a firearm.

Don Christensen, president of the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders and a former chief prosecutor in the Air Force, said in an interview Tuesday the notification should have been made. But, the retired colonel added, it was “not surprising because the way the system worked it seemed like that was something that occurred more frequently than it should have.”

Merle F. Wilberding, a Dayton attorney and former Army Judge Advocate General lawyer, said the failure to notify the National Crime Information Center of the conviction was a “very serious breakdown.”

The military should focus its investigation to find out if this was one reporting mishap or a broader issue of procedures not being followed. “You hope it’s not widespread,” he said.

RELATED: Devin Patrick Kelley: What we know about alleged Texas church shooter

Congressional leaders react

Congressional leaders of key committees have called for a review of how the Air Force handled reporting the outcome of the conviction.

“The Air Force has acknowledged that after court martialing and convicting the perpetrator on charges of domestic assault, it failed to report the conviction to the FBI,” U.S. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement, vowing the committee will “conduct rigorous oversight of the department’s investigation into the circumstance that led to this failure.”

U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the Air Force’s reported oversight “appalling.” The House committee was expected to review the matter.

While acknowledging the service branch has initiated an investigation, Thornberry said in a statement: “ … I don’t believe the Air Force should be left to self-police such tragic consequences. Furthermore, I am concerned that the failure to properly report domestic violence convictions may be a systematic issue.”

RELATED: Air Force admits it failed to report alleged church shooter’s past crimes

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said in part in a statement: “I fear this incident represents a larger issue within the Department of Defense to report criminal incidents.

“The Department of Defense must be certain that all crimes, including sexual assault, are properly reported across its service branches to protect our service members, their families, and all Americans,” he added. “I plan to hold a meeting of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus with my fellow Co-Chair Niki Tsongas on this issue to inquire about the ability of military service members who have sexually assaulted others to obtain guns.”

An Air Force statement said initial information indicated the airman’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigation. Kelley served at the New Mexico base in logistics readiness between 2010 until discharged in 2014, the Air Force said.

In 2012, the Air Force said Kelley was found guilty of two charges of domestic assault against his wife at the time and stepson during a general court martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Among other injuries, the airman’s stepson suffered a fractured skull, Christensen said.

A military judicial panel sentenced Kelley to 12 months. He served the time in a Navy brig in Miramar, Calif., was given a bad conduct discharge and reduced to the lowest enlisted rank, the Air Force said.

Christensen said the sentence was “shockingly light.”

RELATED: How are churches protecting against the threat of gun violence?

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein ordered the Air Force Inspector General to review Kelley’s case and others to ensure convictions were reported correctly.

Each military base where a case is tried, such as Wright-Patterson, has the responsibility for notifying the FBI of certain criminal convictions under the military justice system, Christensen said.

“I think anytime you have a large bureaucracy like the military sometimes things fall through the gaps and this appears to be … an example of something falling through the gap,” said Thaddeus Hoffmeister, a University of Dayton law professor and a National Guard lawyer. He added the military does treat domestic violence cases seriously.

RELATED: How to help Sutherland Springs victims, families

Christensen advocated one central office should handle the responsibility to report convictions to ensure federal notification. Today, he said, “that’s 80 different places where the system could fail.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Military

Work to start next month on $10.5 million Wright-Patt gateway
Work to start next month on $10.5 million Wright-Patt gateway

A new $10.5 million gateway that will consolidate two Wright-Patterson entrances into one is set to begin construction next month, a base spokesman says. A new Gate 26A, a few hundred yards from the current one, would replace a commercial delivery entrance at Gate 16A off Ohio 444, and the existing Gate 26A off Ohio 235 near the entrance to the 445th...
Top Gun pilot to speak at film screening
Top Gun pilot to speak at film screening

A real-life Top Gun is scheduled to be at a screening of Top Gun 3D at the Air Force Museum Theatre. Retired Navy Capt. Ken Ginader, a former Top Gun instructor and F-14 pilot, was set to speak at the screening of film, set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Doors open at 6 p.m. Ginader is the first speaker in the 2018 Living History Film Series at the museum...
2-year deal gives big boost to defense spending, Wright-Patterson
2-year deal gives big boost to defense spending, Wright-Patterson

A two-year congressional budget deal boosts military spending by tens of billions of dollars and would eliminate the “biggest uncertainty” of automatic cuts imposed under sequestration to defense spending, a defense analyst said. Reached in the early hours Friday after a temporary stopgap funding measure expired at midnight Thursday, sending...
AF museum opens, Wright-Patt workers head to work as shutdown ends
AF museum opens, Wright-Patt workers head to work as shutdown ends

President Donald Trump has signed a two-year budget deal Friday that ended a government shutdown overnight Thursday, according to The Associated Press. Wright-Patterson employees were told to report to work Friday despite a possible shutdown and had been in a holding pattern waiting for additional word until the president signed the legislation. RELATED...
Wright-Patt workers told to report to work Friday despite shutdown
Wright-Patt workers told to report to work Friday despite shutdown

The House voted 240-186 to end a government shutdown. The bill will now go to President Trump. The U.S. government was ordered to close at midnight. Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration is “hopeful” the government shutdown will not last long. Wright-Patterson employees were told to show up for work Friday even if...
More Stories