breaking news

High School Track: Shawnee foursome sets district record in 800 relay

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

AF museum attendance soars on first day of Memphis Belle opening
AF museum attendance soars on first day of Memphis Belle opening

Attendance at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force soared Thursday nearly four times above the average for the same date in recent years with the debut of the Memphis Belle exhibit, figures show. The museum counted 11,066 people in attendance for the unveiling of the reborn icon, compared to an average of 2,421 on May 17 between 2015 through 2017...
Did you see the president’s plane? Why it was here.
Did you see the president’s plane? Why it was here.

Spectators of World War II bombers and fighters landing at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force got an extra bonus Thursday. The plane commonly referred to as Air Force One, a Boeing 747 designated VC-25 in the Air Force, practiced touch-and-go landings on Wright-Patterson’s main runway. The jumbo jet is Air Force One only when the president...
‘She’s gorgeous’: Thousands see Memphis Belle exhibit at AF museum
‘She’s gorgeous’: Thousands see Memphis Belle exhibit at AF museum

Alison and Chris Hoglan traveled to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force from St. Louis to see a legend reborn Thursday. The mother and son were in a crowd of hundreds who watched a ribbon-cutting to the new B-17 Memphis Belle exhibit, showcasing the historic bomber’s 25 missions over Europe in World War II and the role of strategic bombing...
‘It took my breath away’: Memphis Belle unveiled at AF museum
‘It took my breath away’: Memphis Belle unveiled at AF museum

The reborn Memphis Belle was unveiled Wednesday night before hundreds including the families of crewmen who flew the famed Army Air Forces bomber into history. Under theatrical lighting and uplifted above the ground by three metal poles, the Memphis Belle was surrounded by a strategic bombing exhibit with cases filled with artifacts, many personal...
Turner urges EPA administrator to release chemical pollution study
Turner urges EPA administrator to release chemical pollution study

A Dayton congressman has urged the U.S. EPA’s top administrator to publicly release a toxicology study that could recommend lower threshold advisories for exposure to chemicals found in groundwater at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and at military installations across the country. Politico reported Monday the White House and the EPA sought to...
More Stories