Relatives of Family Killed in Texas Massacre File Claim Against Air Force

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX — A Texas family that lost eight members, including a woman who was pregnant, in a mass church shooting has filed a wrongful death claim against the US military, asserting the Air Force’s negligence helped the gunman acquire his weapons.

Joe and Claryce Holcombe allege in their claim that the Air Force should have reported gunman Devin Patrick Kelley’s domestic violence conviction to a federal agency, which would have stopped him from legally purchasing firearms.

The Air Force failed to follow its policies and that “directly caused this horrific tragedy,” the claim says.

“We want to see this sort of thing not happen again, and I think if the Air Force had have done its job properly this wouldn’t have happened,” Joe Holcombe told CNN affiliate KABB/WOAI.

Kelley killed 25 people and an unborn child the morning of November 5 as the congregation at the small First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs worshipped.

“Although (Kelley) undoubtedly ‘pulled the trigger’ that resulted in injuries and death of J.B. Holcombe and others, the failures of the US Air Force, and others, allowed the shooter to purchase, own and/or possess the semiautomatic rifle, ammunition and body armor he used,” the claim says. J.B. Holcombe, 60, was Joe and Claryce Holcombe’s son. He was shot in the back as he walked to the pulpit, the claim says.

Holcombe family attorney Rob Ammons told Kabb/WOAI: “I think anyone, even Joe Holcombe, who is a member of the National Rifle Association and owns firearms, everyone would agree, we don’t want guns in the hands of people like Devin Patrick Kelley.”

Kelley served in logistics readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico starting in 2010. He was court-martialed in 2012 for two counts of Article 128 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, assault on his spouse and assault on their child, spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.

Kelley received a bad conduct discharge, confinement for 12 months and a reduction in rank, she said.

The Air Force did not provide a date of the discharge, but his military record indicates he left the service in May 2014.

“Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations,” an Air Force statement issued two days after the shooting said.

The Air Force said Tuesday that preliminary findings by its inspector general confirmed the proper personnel at Holloman Air Force Base did not report required information to civilian law enforcement in Kelley’s case.

A review that began after the killings is ongoing but has found the error is not “an isolated incident and similar reporting lapses occurred at other locations.”

The Air Force statement said changes have been made so far to information verification, software, checklists and training.

The service is going back through records from as far back as 2002, the statement said.

It is unclear what financial compensation the Holcombe family is asking for in the death of J.B. Holcombe; the figure in the claim is redacted.

Kelley was found dead in his vehicle after he drove away from the church, being chased by two good Samaritans — including one who had wounded Kelley.


  • DemoRats!

    Doesn’t matter when you lie on the application to buy a firearm! Clearly ask “have you been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces”? Clearly he was! Blame it on Trump he seems to take all the ….. from the terrorist lover from the previous administration

  • warningfakenews

    The media will enjoy reporting this story, but they’ll play it like it is the men in women serving our country in the field who are at fault here, when it is the career bureaucrats in Washington working in The Pentagon who failed to do their job. Those folks are DEMOCRATS, for the most part.

    • Viewpoint

      You truly are quite bonkers, aren’t you? Does ANY news article on this blame our active or retired service members in the field? Somebody somewhere screwed up though with not reporting his status. The law of averages says his case isn’t the only one – so how many more ticking time bombs are out there?

      • warningfakenews

        Yes, this one. The Air Force, The Air Force, The Air Force- all throughout the piece. The only place The Pentagon appears on this entire page is in MY comments.

      • Viewpoint

        My point exactly: YOUR comment. Glad we have such an expert of military matters, procedures, policies, and protocols in our midst. So, who in the Pentagon screwed up? Can you precisely pinpoint THE individual that failed to report him, and what branch of the service they are in? They’re saying Air Force as a general statement dingbat, because that’s the branch the shooter was in. You wear me out.

      • warningfakenews

        You wear yourself out. The pentagon is where these things occur, not in the branch of service itself. The fact that someone can’t point to exactly WHICH bureaucrat is at fault is by design. Everyone is in CYA mode there all of the time. The media LOVES to talk negatively about the armed services, but is loath to discuss the actions or inactions of government bureaucrats- their democrat brethren.

      • Whodat

        If you say so. Hey, while you’re at it – care to tell us your thoughts on 9/11, Obama’s birthplace, and chem trails?

      • warningfakenews

        Sure. It happened and it demonstrates how it’s utter foolishness to ban guns because no firearms were used. Box cutters and empty boxes were. Same results could have occurred with sharp glass. The TSA is useless response. GWB is a swamp creature and was perfectly OK with expanding the size and scope of government to the detriment of the American people.

        Obama was born somewhere on earth- at this point, it doesn’t matter where. He also loved expanding the size and scope of the government to the detriment of the American people. Another swamp creature.

        Chem trails likely occur at least at times. There ya go.

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