Police did not pursue assault charge against Texas church shooter
Sheriff’s deputies admitted they did not pursue a sexual assault investigation that, in the end, may have prevented a Texas gunman from legally obtaining the firearm he used to slaughter dozens at a church in November.
Nearly four years before Devin Kelley gunned down 25 people, including a pregnant woman, at Firth Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a woman accused him of pinning her down and forcing her to perform oral sex, according to records released on Friday.
The unidentified victim reported the incident to the Comal County Sheriff’s office in June 2013 — just three days after the alleged assault occurred. In a handwritten statement to authorities, the woman claimed she’d gone to “hang out” with Kelley, but that he kept trying to kiss her despite the fact she repeatedly turned away.
“At some point he had me sit on the bed with him and he forced me to lay down,” she wrote. “Devin then sat on my chest with my arms restricted underneath.”
Then he tried to force her into oral sex, according to documents.
“I repeatedly told him no. He told me that if I didn’t open my mouth he would choke me. When I would bring my hands up to stop him he would restrict me again,” she detailed for police.
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“He choked me with his hands until I opened my mouth.”
The Sheriff’s Office never filed charges against Kelley, despite the two-page statement detailing the sexual assault. The case was labeled inactive after authorities struggled to get in touch with the victim and it remained that way — even after authorities were called to Kelley’s home a year later to separately investigate a domestic complaint lodged against him.
"This was an error on the part of the sheriff's office," Comal County Sheriff Mark Reynolds said.
Kelley at that point should have been arrested, Reynolds said. But the department lacked a case-tracking database that would’ve alerted authorities responding to the domestic disturbance that he was the subject of a sexual assault investigation.
Reynolds, who became Sheriff last year, is now creating such a database.
The newly released documents also include a statement from Kelley’s ex-wife, Tessa Brennaman. She spoke with the victim a day after the alleged attack, explaining to her how Kelley abused her over the course of their one-year marriage.
“Devin would frequently choke, slap, kick and water-board her and one time even held a gun against her head,” according to the documents.
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Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 and found guilty of assaulting Brennanman and fracturing his step son’s skill at an Air Force bas in New Mexico, where he worked as a logistics readiness specialist.
He was sentenced to 12 months confinement and handed a bad-conduct discharge. The military conviction should have prevented him from legally purchasing four guns in the years leading up to the massacre , but the Air Force never reported it to the FBI.
Had Kelley been prosecuted for the 2013 sexual assault, that conviction also would have precluded him from legally purchasing the weapon he used to slaughter men, women and children at a relative's church.
He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being shot and chased by two residents when he was leaving the church, authorities said.