Devin Kelley, the 26-year-old who murdered 26 people in a Texas Church on Nov. 5, was convicted of assault on his wife and child while in the Air Force in 2012.
Kelley joined the Air Force in 2010 and was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico until his discharge for Bad Conduct. He served a year in detention prior to being discharged in 2014.
In 2012 Kelley pleaded guilty to charges of “assault on his spouse and assault on their child”—not just once, but on several occasions.
“He assaulted his stepson severely enough that he fractured his skull, and he also assaulted his wife,” Don Christensen, a retired colonel who was the chief prosecutor for the Air Force, told The New York Times. “He pled to intentionally doing it.”
The Air Force said Kelley’s case was a general court martial, the most serious level of military trial proceedings. It is reserved for more serious criminal allegations, those substantially similar to felonies in civilian jurisdictions.
The charges should have barred him from buying or owning handguns in the State of Texas. However, the information didn’t appear to have been passed along the proper channels, because Kelley was able to buy two guns in Texas and two more in Colorado.
Kelley’s first wife, whom he married in 2011, divorced him in 2012 while he was in military prison. In April of 2014, after his discharge, he moved to Texas and married Danielle Lee Shield. The couple moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where they lived on Lot 60 in the Fountain Creek RV Park.
His neighbors in the park remember him mostly for an incident involving his pet pit bull.
Kelley kept the dog tied up in the sun all day long, causing neighbors to be concerned for the dog’s well-being. At one point the police were called after Kelley hit the dog in the head.
“The suspect then started beating on the dog with both fists, punching it in the head and chest,” the police report cites a witness saying. “He could hear the suspect yelling at the dog and while he was striking it, the dog was yelping and whining. The suspect then picked up the dog by the neck into the air and threw it onto the ground and then drug him away to lot 60.”
According to his neighbors, Kelley holed up in his trailer and refused to come out for about an hour. He finally emerged and was charged with cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor. He paid a fine and the case was dismissed.
He moved away a few weeks later.
A Turn to the Dark Side
Friends who knew Kelley in High School said he turned dark after graduation. Many unfriended him of Facebook as his attitudes seemed to grow more extreme.
“I had always known there was something off about him. But he wasn’t always a ‘psychopath’ though,” said longtime friend, Courtney Kleiber on Facebook on Nov. 5 after hearing about the shooting.
She posted that he had been “happy at one point, normal, your average kid. We had a lot of good times together. Over the years we all saw him change into something that he wasn’t. To be completely honest, I’m really not surprised this happened, and I don’t think anyone who knew him is very surprised either.”
Among the changes, Kelley became a zealous atheist, and was vocally anti-Christian. This also cost him some friends.
“He was always talking about how people who believe in God were stupid and trying to preach his atheism,” said Nina Rosa, one of his Facebook friends who unfriended him because of it.
In June of 2017 Kelley got a job as a security guard at a local water park. Despite his prior legal entanglements, he managed to pass all the necessary background checks.
Kelley was “terminated,” after less than six weeks on the job, said park spokeswoman Winter D. Prosapio. “He was not a good fit.”
Kelley’s Facebook page featured pictures of his firearms. The main one displayed on his profile banner photo was a picture of the AR-556 he used in the church shooting.