A community is left looking for answers after another mass shooting shook the U.S., this time at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a former airman injured 20 and killed 26, including a family of eight that spanned three generations.
The shooting was not at random act, like that of the Vegas massacre on Oct. 1, but according to Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt may have been targeted. The shooter, who has been identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, had in-laws who frequently attended the church, according to Reuters.
“There was a domestic situation going on within the family and the in-laws,” Freeman Martin, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, told Reuters. “The mother-in-law attended the church. We know he sent threatening ... that she had received threatening text messages from him.”
Kelley, who was in the Air Force, received a bad conduct discharge, confinement for 12 months and a reduction in his military status following a court-martial in 2012 for assaulting his spouse and child, reports ABC News. A person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is prohibited from possessing firearms, notes ABC News, but Kelley was reportedly allowed to purchase his weapon at a gun store in San Antonio, Texas.
According to Reuters, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told CBS News there was evidence that Kelley had mental health problems and that he had been denied a Texas gun permit.
“It’s clear this is a person who had violent tendencies, who had some challenges, and someone who was a powder keg, seeming waiting to go off,” Abbott said.
Though a few similarities have begun to stick out when it comes to mass shootings in the U.S. besides the race and gender of most perpetrators being white and male, they have also had a history of domestic violence according to an analysis by The Washington Post done after the attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August.
James Alex Fields, the man allegedly responsible for running his car into counter protesters at a white supremacist rally, injuring 19 and killing one, had threatened to beat his mother according to two calls to 911 calls she had made in Ohio. He was accused of striking his mother and threatening her with a knife.
James T. Hodgkinson, who shot at Republican members of Congress at their baseball practice, had been accused of pulling his teenage daughter by the hair and punching a woman in the same episode.
Robert Lewis Dear who opened fire on a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado, killing an officer and two others, was accused by two of his three ex-wives of physical abuse and in 1992 was arrested and accused of rape.
Not on the list but another who fits the description is Stephen Paddock, the gunman from Las Vegas who according to HuffPost was reported to be verbally abusive to his partner, Marilou Danley. A supervisor for a Starbucks he would frequent with Danley, Esperanza Mendoza, told the Los Angeles Times he would openly berate her in public.
Another commonality besides the Texas case where the shooter was tried and convicted, the incidents of violence are either based on a call to the police that was reported or they were accused but never convicted of the crime. An accusation does not show up on a background check when purchasing a weapon.
James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University professor who studies mass killings, told The Washington Post the most common factor in mass killings involved people killing members of their own families.
Fox said about 1 in 6 mass killers in his data had histories of domestic violence.
The initial death toll of 26 matches the fatalities at the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where the shooter's mother taught. Adam Lanza killed his mother, other educators and 20 children.
The Texas attack now stands as the fourth deadliest shooting on U.S. soil in modern history.