Air Force failed six times to notify FBI about gunman prior to Texas massacre

The gunman who opened fire in a rural Texas church last year, killing 26 people and murdering as many as three generations of one family, could have been stopped from legally obtaining a firearm if the Air Force hadn't shirked its duty, according to a newly released Defense Department report.

Following the November 2017 mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, the Air Force confirmed that airman Devin Patrick Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 on two charges of assaulting his wife and stepson. The 26-year-old, who had been based in New Mexico, was confined for a year, saw his rank reduced and given a bad conduct discharge in 2014.

But the Air Force should have also submitted his fingerprints to the FBI, and failed to do so on four occasions, the Defense Department's 131-page inspector general report found.

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What we know about Texas church shooting suspect Devin Kelley
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What we know about Texas church shooting suspect Devin Kelley

Devin Patrick Kelley is accused of killing more than two dozen people in a shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

(Texas Department of Safety/Handout via REUTERS)

The 26-year-old live in this home in New Braunfels, Texas.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman)

He was a member of the U.S. Air Force before discharged and court-martialed for reportedly assault his first wife and child.

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Officials said Kelley was involved in a domestic dispute with the family of  a woman he married in 2014.

(Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

He worked at Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort.

(Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

Kelley used an AR-556 rifle and wore tactical gear during the attack, according to authorities.

(Photo Illustration by George Frey/Getty Images)

Two ex-girlfriends told NBC News that Kelley stalked them after breakups.

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Devin Patrick Kelley attended high school at New Braunfels High School.

(Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

Authorities said Kelley called his father during the chase to say he had been shot and might not survive. He was later found dead in his vehicle. 

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A former schoolmate of Kelley told Reuters that he shared posts on Facebook about atheism and his assault weapon in recent years.

(Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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Kelley's conviction should have also triggered the Air Force to send a final disposition report to the agency, which would have put him in the FBI's criminal history database and potentially prevented him from legally buying a gun.

Instead, he passed federally mandated background checks and purchased four firearms from licensed dealers.

According to the report, Kelley used three of the guns he bought for the massacre at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. Armed citizens shot at Kelley as he fled in his car; he later died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

One reason for the lapse in reporting of Kelley's fingerprints to the FBI occurred when a case agent investigating the domestic assault said they didn't know it was a requirement.

Other agents could not give a "clear, supportable reason or explanation" for why Kelley's fingerprints were not submitted to federal authorities, the report said.

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Photos from the scene of the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting
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Photos from the scene of the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting
Police block a road in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 5, 2017, after a mass shooting a church nearby. A gunman shot dead at least 20 worshippers attending Sunday morning services at a Baptist church in Texas, news media reported. / AFP PHOTO / SUZANNE CORDEIRO (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Police block a road in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 5, 2017, after a mass shooting a church nearby. A gunman shot dead at least 20 worshippers attending Sunday morning services at a Baptist church in Texas, news media reported. / AFP PHOTO / SUZANNE CORDEIRO (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Police block a road in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, 2017, after a mass shooting at the the First Baptist Church. A gunman went into the church during Sunday morning services and shot dead some two dozen worshippers, the sheriff said, in the latest mass shooting to shock the US. 'Approximately 25 people' were dead, including the shooter, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told NBC News. At least 10 people were wounded. The motive was not immediately known, he added. / AFP PHOTO / SUZANNE CORDEIRO (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Police block a road in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, 2017, after a mass shooting at the the First Baptist Church (rear). A gunman went into the church during Sunday morning services and shot dead some two dozen worshippers, the sheriff said, in the latest mass shooting to shock the US. 'Approximately 25 people' were dead, including the shooter, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told NBC News. At least 10 people were wounded. The motive was not immediately known, he added. / AFP PHOTO / SUZANNE CORDEIRO (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Families gather at the community center awaiting news about the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
Families gather at the community center awaiting news about the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Law enforcement officials gather near the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Law enforcement officials gather near the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 6: Law enforcement officials gather near the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Law enforcement and forensic officials gather near the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: A forensics official passes by the entrance to the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Law enforcement officials gather near the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
Families gather at the community center awaiting news about the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
Police are at the scene of the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
Families gather at the community center awaiting news about the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
Police have closed off the roads near the scene of the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
First responders are at the shooting scene at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
First responders are at the scene of shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
First responders are at the scene of shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: People gather near First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 26 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, allegedly entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Law enforcement officials gather near First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 26 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, allegedly entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
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"The investigators and confinement personnel had a duty to know, and should have known" the policies, the report added, and "the failures had drastic consequences and should not have occurred."

In the wake of the shooting, Air Force officials asked the inspector general to look into Kelley's past as well as comb through its databases for other cases where fingerprints were not given to the FBI.

In its report, the inspector general gives several recommendations for the Air Force, including implementing a background check system during recruiting. It was found that Kelley had multiple instances of alleged criminal activity before entering the Air Force, including one just days before he became active.

Investigators said the attack occurred after a domestic dispute Kelley had with his mother-in-law, a member of the church who wasn't present that day. The victims ranged from a pregnant woman and her unborn child to a 77-year-old grandfather, and the shooting became the deadliest inside a house of worship in modern U.S. history.

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