Texas church shooting was 'domestic incident' and gunman's mother-in-law was in the congregation, officials say

Gunman Devin Kelley
Gunman Devin Kelley

The mass shooting at a church in Texas that left 26 people dead was a ‘domestic incident’, officials have said.

Gunman Devin Kelley was involved in a row with his mother-in-law, who was thought to be in the congregation.

Freeman Martin, regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said: ‘This was not racially motivated, it wasn’t over religious beliefs.

‘There was a domestic situation going on with the family and in-laws.’

Mr Martin also said that Kelley had sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law in the days running up to the attack.

The site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas (Reuters/Rick Wilking)
The site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas (Reuters/Rick Wilking)

Kelley died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after first being shot by a “good samaritan”, according to Freeman Martin, the regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

He was in possession of three guns, including an assault rifle and two handguns, which he was not legally permitted to own, according to police.

He was previously discharged from the Air Force several years ago for allegedly assaulting his spouse and a child.

A US Air Force spokeswoman, Ann Stefanek, said Kelley served 12 months’ confinement after a 2012 court-martial for the assault.

He also had a history of animal cruelty, it has emerged.

Court records in Colorado indicate Kelley was cited for animal cruelty on August 1 2014, when he lived in a mobile home park near Colorado Springs.

He was given a deferred probationary sentence and was ordered to pay $368 in restitution.

Donald Trump caused controversy earlier today by saying the deadly shooting was about mental health, not guns.

The US president said the atrocity “isn’t a guns situation”, but is a “mental health problem at the highest level”.

While no officials have publicly questioned Kelley’s mental health, Mr Trump said that “is your problem here” when asked about the shooting as he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a joint news conference in Tokyo.

“This was a very, based on preliminary reports, a very deranged individual. A lot of problems over a long period of time,” Mr Trump said.

“We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries. But this isn’t a guns situation,” the president said.

Meanwhile, the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, said Kelley had sought a firearms licence but ‘the State of Texas denied him the ability to get a gun’.

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The attack happened on Sunday morning when a man dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault rifle opened fire inside a Baptist church in a small South Texas community.

Mr Trump first tweeted that he was monitoring the situation from Japan.

He later described the shooting as an “act of evil” during remarks to a gathering of American and Japanese business executives.

Mourners at a vigil for the victims of the shooting (Picture: PA)
Mourners at a vigil for the victims of the shooting (Picture: PA)

Mr Trump said “fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction otherwise it (wouldn’t) have been as bad as it was, it would have been much worse.”

“But this is a mental health problem at the highest level. It’s a very, very sad event.”

Mr Trump’s comments were backed by his former press secretary Sean Spicer, who told Good Morning Britain the shooting was a ‘mental health issue’.

The shooting comes just over a month after a gunman opened fire on an outdoor music festival on the Las Vegas Strip from the 32nd floor of a hotel-casino, killing 58 people and wounding more than 500.

Mr Trump visited Las Vegas soon after to meet families of victims and the emergency services.

The shooting took place at a Baptist church in Texas (Picture: PA)
The shooting took place at a Baptist church in Texas (Picture: PA)

In the days after the Las Vegas shooting, Mr Trump and his aides declined to discuss possible changes to gun laws, saying it was too soon after the tragedy to talk about policy.

Mr Trump on Monday ignored shouted questions about whether the US needs to consider tightening gun laws.

One US official said Kelley lived in a San Antonio suburb and did not appear to be linked to organised terrorist groups.

Investigators were looking at social media posts Kelley made in the days before Sunday’s attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon.

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