Church shooter escaped NM behavioral facility in 2012, police report says | KOB 4

Church shooter escaped NM behavioral facility in 2012, police report says

J.R. Oppenheim
November 07, 2017 10:20 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The man who authorities say shot and killed 26 people in a Texas church over the weekend had escaped from a Santa Teresa behavioral center five years ago.


Court documents reveal Devin Kelley left the Peak Behavioral Health Services building on June 13, 2012, before police officers caught him in El Paso, Texas. Those same records also state Kelley once attempted to carry firearms onto a military base near Alamogordo.

Kelley is accused of the fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Several victims in Sunday's shooting were children, including an 18-month-old baby.

Television station KVIA-TV, a news partner with KOB-TV, first reported the story late Tuesday morning about Kelley's 2012 escape, citing records from the El Paso Police Department.

Those documents state the facility reported a missing person around 11:23 p.m., telling officers he "suffered from mental disorders and had plans to run" to a bus stop and leave New Mexico.

Kelley also reportedly tried to bring guns onto Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, the facility told police.

"[The reporting party] advised that [Kelley] was attempting to carry out death threats that [Kelley] made on his military chain of command," the documents state. "[Kelley] was also facing military charges."

The report states El Paso police were then dispatched to an address in the downtown part of the city, where they apprehended Kelley. He did not resist, according to the documents.

Officials at Peak Behavioral Health states they do not discuss patient information, and state and federal law prevents them from doing so.

"In behavioral health, this is particularly important because of the stigma that still attaches to treatment, and the reluctance many people have about seeking help for fear that others will learn about it," the center said in a statement. "Our hearts go out to the victims of this horrible act and their families and friends, and like everyone else in Texas, we are doing everything we can to help the community in recovering and healing from this tragedy."

Air Force officials confirmed Monday that Kelley was discharged from service following a domestic violence conviction and he should not have been allowed by buy firearms. Kelley managed to purchase guns, Air Force said because the conviction was not put into a federal database.

Heather Wilson, a former New Mexico congresswoman and the current secretary of the Air Force, spoke with CNBC Tuesday morning. She said an investigation is underway.

"What happened in Texas was just absolutely awful," she said. "And I think all of us on Sunday were just heartbroken, but we have initiated a review in the Air Force to find his fingerprint records were not transmitted to the database."


J.R. Oppenheim

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved


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