Texas Judge Orders Air Force to Pay $230 Million to Survivors, Victims’ Families From 2017 Church Shooting

by Samantha Whidden

A Texas judge has reportedly ordered the U.S. Air Force to pay $230 million to survivors and victims’ families from the 2017 church shooting that killed two dozen people.

According to CBS News, the church shooter, identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, should not have been able to purchase a guy due to him receiving a bad conduct discharge. This was after he plead guilty to two counts of domestic violence. However, the U.S. Air Force did not enter his name into the National Criminal Information Center. Since that did not happen, Kelley was able to pass a background check and purchase at least two guns. 

After purchasing the guns, Kelley went to the Sutherland Springs Church in New Braunfels, Texas on November 5, 2017, and killed 26 people, including an unborn child. He also wounded 22 others before he himself died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The attack is notably the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history. It is also the fifth-deadliest shooting in the United States and the deadliest shooting in an American place of worship in modern history. It surpassed the Charleston Church Shooting in 2015 and the Waddell Buddhist Temple shooting in 1991. Kelley’s motive for the shooting has never been clear.

The media outlet reports that the money from the Air Force will compensate more than 80 family members of victims and survivors who filed a lawsuit against the government. The Lead Trial Counsel for the plaintiffs, Jamal Alsaffar issued a statement about the verdict. “The families are the heroes here. While no amount can bring the many lives lost or destroyed at the hands of the government’s negligence, their bravery in obtaining this verdict will make this country safer. By helping ensure that this type of governmental failure does not happen in our country again.”

The Perpetrator of the Sutherland Springs Church Shooting Had a History of Violence 

CBS News also reports that Kelley, the perpetrator of the Sutherland Springs Church shooting, served in the U.S. Air Force from 2010 to 2014. He was in logistics readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico up until his discharge in 2014. However, in 2012, Kelley was court-martialed on two counts of assault on his then-wife. He also assaulted her child.  

Retired Air Force Chief Prosecutor Colonel Don Christensen, whose office prosecuted Kelley, revealed in 2017 that there were multiple instances in 2011 and 2012 in which Kelley assaulted his then-wife and her son. Kelley notably physically assaulted the child. Kelley later pled guilty to “diverse occasions” of assaulting her then-wife and her son. He received a bad-conduct discharge. He also had a reduction in rank and confinement for 12 months. 

CBS News adds that Texas and federal laws prohibited those with domestic violence convictions from owning firearms. The military is supposed to report to the FBI but failed to do so.