Texas church gunman escaped from psychiatric hospital in 2012

World Today

Flowers and stuffed animals rest at the base of crosses at a makeshift memorial for the First Baptist Church victims Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A man opened fire inside the church in the small South Texas community on Sunday, killing more than two dozen and injuring others. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

New details are emerging about the gunman in that church massacre in Texas. Newly uncovered police records show Devin Kelley once escaped from a mental health hospital and tried to attack his military supervisors. These details, however, did not show up on background checks when he bought his guns.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

In Sutherland Springs, people are shaken as they continue processing what happened at First Baptist Church on Sunday.

“It just hurts me so much in my heart. It hurt me in my heart that it happened inside of a church,” one resident said.

Children as young as 18-months-old were among Devin Kelley’s victims.

Shell casings found at the scene are being checked to see if his assault rifle was used in any other shootings. Authorities recovered Kelley’s phone, hoping it may provide them with some answers.

But investigators said they are unable to access the data inside.

“It actually highlights an issue that you’ve all heard about before; with the advance of the technology and the phones and the encryptions law enforcement,” according to the FBI’s Christopher Combs.

Authorities are reluctant to address a motive for the rampage, as well as threatening text messages they said Kelley sent to his mother-in-law.

“We have some indication on what the conflict was, between the family, the timing and stuff. Still a lot of work to be done. As I said, it’s still only 48 hours into this,” the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Freeman martin said.

According to a police report, Kelley escaped from a mental health facility in 2012 after he was caught sneaking firearms onto a military base in New Mexico. He was convicted of assaulting his wife and breaking the skull of his baby stepson around the same time.

It now appears Sunday’s attack could have been prevented had the U.S. Air Force, where Kelley served, reported his domestic violence conviction as required.

The presence of Kelley’s name in a national database would have prevented him from legally buying weapons like the one used in the shootings. Authorities say nearly everyone inside the church on Sunday was killed or injured.

Law enforcement responded quickly, with officials saying they were on-scene within four minutes of the initial emergency call.

Helping those affected is a support group for homicide survivors. That support includes counseling for anyone who needs it, and teddy bears for the youngest.

“When they first hear that their loved one is gone, you know the pain through the whole rest of your life,” the group’s founder, Donna Watkins, said. “So that’s why I’ve dedicated the rest of my life to doing this.”

She’s one of many who are grieving the traffic loss of life, while also asking how much longer the U.S. will continue losing lives in these types of shootings.

“We’ve got to do something,” Watkins said.

It’s a sentiment that’s felt far beyond this small Texas town.