(UPI) — The Texas church shooter may have been motivated by a domestic situation, authorities said on Monday.
The gunman, identified as Devin Patrick Kelley,, was a former U.S. Air Force airman who officials said began having legal trouble in 2012 after being court-martialed and sentenced to military prison for assaulting his wife and child.
His wife filed for divorce in that same year and Kelley was released from the military with a bad conduct discharge in 2014. Later, Kelley was charged with a misdemeanor count of mistreatment, neglect or cruelty to animals in Colorado.
Related Story: Shooter was charged with animal abuse in Colorado
Kelley later remarried and had a two-year-old child.
Authorities said on Monday that domestic issues may have been the motivation behind the shooting as Kelley’s mother-in-law attended the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and she had received “threatening texts from him.”
Authorities said the shooter “expressed anger” towards his mother-in-law and that the shooting “was not racially motivated…it wasn’t over religious beliefs.” Kelley’s in-laws were not present in the church at the time of the attack.
Kelley killed 26 people and half of the victims were children — including the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor. Three firearms were uncovered from the scene of the church and the vehicle.
“Wherever you walked in the church, it was death,” Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said.
Officials said Kelley, who did not have a license to carry, tried to leave the scene when a witness attempted to grab his rifle — a Ruger AR-556 assault-style rifle.
Another bystander shot the Kelley before the shooter fled in his vehicle, officials said. The two men followed the suspect on the highway until police arrived.
Officials noted in a press conference that Kelley called his father during the chase to let him know he was shot and that he may have later died “from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”
“I never in a million years could have believed Devin could be capable of this kind of thing,” Dave Ivey, Kelley’s uncle, said. “My family will suffer because of his coward actions.”
Neighbors of the Kelley family claimed to hear gunfire at night, yet some still said it was “shocking” to hear of the shooting.
“You never think your neighbor is capable of something like that,” a neighbor of Kelley’s said.
“If he did that, that kind of worries you, thinking we’ve been living next door to the guy.”
President Donald Trump, who is on a 12-day trip to Asia, spoke from Japan about the shooting in a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“I think that mental health is a problem here. Based on preliminary reports, this was a very deranged individual with a lot of problems over a very long period of time,” Trump said.
The president also said gun ownership was not a factor the attack.
“We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries, but this isn’t a guns situation … we could go into it but it’s a little bit soon to go into it,” Trump said. “Fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise, it wouldn’t have been as bad as it was, it would have been much worse.”
Investigators say that video was recovered from inside the church and will be used in the investigation which “may go on for days.”
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