Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, has been identified as the man behind the massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas Sunday morning (Nov. 5) that left at least 26 people dead and 20 others injured in what is being described as the deadliest mass shooting at a church in modern U.S. History and the worst mass shooting in Texas.
Kelley’s motive behind the shooting wasn’t immediately clear. His background includes teaching Vacation Bible School, but, oddly enough, he liked Facebook pages devoted to atheism.
The gunman, who was killed by a heroic citizen not too long after the shooting, left behind a number of disturbing posts on social media, including a Facebook post showing off a rifle, which he called a “bad bitch.”
Neighbors of Kelley said they were shocked to hear about him being behind the shooting. “I’m stunned. I’m leaving to go to a softball meeting and I find this in my front yard,” Terry Moravitz said while deputies were keeping watch on a wooded property on the other side of a cattle guard, where Moravitz said Kelley had lived for the past decade. Shocking. (You) never think your neighbor is capable of something like that,” Terry’s husband Mark said.
Mark Moravitz said the Kelleys would travel often and he and his wife would house sit. “Nothing abnormal. Regular guy,” Moravitz said of Kelley. “I mean, the only thing unusual across the street is we hear a lot of gunfire, a lot of times at night. We hear gunfire a lot, but we’re out in the country.”
The shooter’s uncle, Dave Ivey, told NBC News in a Facebook message, “I never in a million years could of [sic] believed Devin could be capable of this kind of thing. I am numb. … My family will suffer because of his coward actions. … I am so sorry for the victims in Texas.”
Ivey wrote in a separate post on Facebook: “Devin ‘MY NEPHEW’ is NO better than a POS suicide bomber…He acted as a Coward..I hope he burns in hell!” Ivey has since removed his page from Facebook, but a screenshot of the post is below:
Here’s what you need to know about Devin Patrick Kelley, the Sutherland Springs Church shooter:
Devin Patrick Kelley was dressed in all black and wearing a bulletproof vest when he shot up the church.
Kelley approached the church around 11:20 a.m. and was “dressed all in black tactical type gear and was wearing a ballistic vest,” authorities said in a press conference. “He started firing at the church. He moved to the right side of the church and continued to fire, then he went in the church.”
Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt Jr. told the Associated Press that Kelley fired several shots outside the Sutherland Springs church before he entered the building and walked toward the front of the congregation. Tackitt said the gunman then turned around and fired more shots on his way out the front door.
Sheriff Tackitt said that because of how the building was designed, parishioners were trapped inside and had nowhere to go to. “I don’t think they could have escaped,” he said. “You’ve got your pews on either side.”
Three guns belonging to Kelley were found in his vehicle: a Ruger rifle, a black 9mm handgun, and a Ruger 22 pistol, said Fred Milanowski, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agent.
At least 15 magazines with a 30-round capacity were recovered from the scene, Freeman Martin, a spokesman for the Texas department of public safety said in a press conference Monday (Nov. 6).
Authorities also checked Kelley’s residence for explosives, though it’s not clear what they found.
A KSAT-TV reporter said in a live report on Facebook Live: “A man in full gear came into the church and unloaded several rounds, and then took off in a vehicle.” According to officials, 23 people were found dead inside the church, two were found deceased outside the building, and another was transported to the hospital and died later.
Authorities said that a heroic and unidentified citizen, who lived near the church, “grabbed his rifle and confronted the suspect,” who was armed with a “Ruger AR assault-type rifle.” The Daily Beast later clarified that the heroic citizen was armed with a shotgun and not a “rifle,” contrary to previous reports.
The local citizen and another man, later identified as Johnnie Langendorff, who just so happened to be driving past the church at the time of the shooting, chased down the suspect, who ran off the road, crashed, and was found dead in his vehicle. “We don’t know if it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound or if he was shot by our local resident who engaged him with gunfire,” authorities said initially.
It was later revealed that Kelley had taken his own life. An autopsy found three gunshot wounds on Kelley’s body: two from the armed citizen, one in the leg and in the torso, and a third in the head, which was the self-inflicted wound.
The details of the mass shooting, which Texas Governor Greg Abbott said was the worst in the state’s history, were horrific: churchgoers slaughtered as they worshipped with family; children hiding under pews and being gunned down, etc.
Just five days prior to the shooting, the church had shared now heartbreaking photos on Facebook of a fall festival held on October 31st.
Almost everyone inside the small wood-frame country church building, which held only about 50 people in the town of only a few hundred people, was wounded or killed in the mass shooting. The victims’ ages ranged from 5 to 72, authorities said. “This will be a long-suffering mourning for those in pain,” TX Governor Greg Abbott said.
Authorities said they haven’t found anything linking Kelley to any organized terrorist groups.
Devin P. Kelley Posted a photo of a rifle on Facebook, where he creeped out his friends, was known for “starting drama” and said that he did not “fear death.”
Though Devin Patrick Kelley’s Facebook page has since been deleted, a number of screenshots were taken of his page showing some odd/disturbing activity. For instance, his cover photo was an image of a semi-automatic rifle, which he referred to as a “bad bitch.” Authorities said that the rifle used in the massacre was similar to the one Kelley posted on Facebook, though they couldn’t confirm it was the same weapon. Kelley’s Facebook page also showed that he liked several pages promoting atheism, and pages about German Shepherds, Glocks, cars, and karate.
Former classmates of Kelley described him as “creepy,” “crazy,” and an “outcast” who had recently started preaching about atheism and picking fights with people on social media, the Daily Mail reported.
One former classmate, Nina Rose Nava, wrote on her Facebook page: “…in complete shock! I legit just deleted him off my fb cause I couldn’t stand his post. He was always talking about how people who believe in God we’re stupid and trying to preach his atheism. Smh. … Me and my friend [saw] him a month back at dennys and we were talking about how weird he was!!!”
Another woman commented on Nava’s post that she had unfriended Kelley on Facebook the day before the shooting: “So crazy. He kept messaging me and his fb was creeping me out and I wasn’t liking all that he was sharing.” A man also chimed in on the thread, writing, “I removed him off FB for those same reasons! He was being super [negative] all the tim(e).”
Nava wrote that in high school, Kelley was “an outcast but I wouldn’t say loner. Like he has some [friends] and wasnt a complete nobody.” Another man who knew him wrote: “He was weird but never that damn weird, always posting his Atheist sh*t like Nina wrote, but damn he always posted pics of him and his baby – crazy.”
A different high school classmate who had recently become friends with Kelley on Facebook wrote: “I cannot believe this. I went to high school with this maniac. There were people I knew who stayed away from this guy for many reasons, which all make sense now. He just requested me on facebook recently. Devin Kelly, you are, in fact, officially the biggest piece of sh*t I’ve ever come across. Sorry for the language but wow.”
Just days before the shooting, Kelley had shared a photo on Facebook showing that he had shaved his beard, but didn’t explain why. When someone inquired about it, saying “Don’t you have a beard,” he responded, “Not anymore. Long story.” CBS uncovered a photo of Devin Kelley that shows him with a beard.
Kelley’s Facebook page also contained a quote from Mark Twain about not fearing death: “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”
Johnathan Castillo, who lived near Kelley, told the Los Angeles Times that Kelley had recently lost a lot of Facebook friends for “starting drama” and “sending insulting Facebook messages.”
According to news reports, Kelley lived on a 28-acre property for more than a decade. His parents lived in one home, while Kelley resided in a “barndominium” on a “wooded property behind a cattle guard.”
His neighbor, Mark Moravitz, told KSAT-TV he didn’t see anything strange about Kelley. “Nothing abnormal. Regular guy,” he said. “I mean, the only thing unusual across the street is we hear a lot of gunfire, a lot of times at night. We hear gunfire a lot, but we’re out in the country.”
The New York Times reported that Kelley’s parents’ home is worth $1 million, though the Washington Post said it was $800K. Because the area is typically used for hunting, the Post noted that it wasn’t unusual to hear gunfire there.
Another neighbor of Kelley’s, 16-year-old Ryan Albers, described hearing gunfire to the AP. “It’s really loud. At first I thought someone was blasting,” he said. “It was someone using automatic weapon fire.”
Devin Kelley was a member of the U.S. Air Force from 2010 until he was dishonorably discharged in 2014 for “bad conduct.”
Devin P. Kelley is a former Air Force airman who was discharged from the military after he assaulted his wife and her child. Kelley, who lived near New Braunfels, Texas (about 40 miles from Sutherland Springs) was court-martialed and convicted of domestic violence in 2012 at Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where he was a logistics readiness specialist, according to the San Antonio Express.
Kelley was sentenced to 12 months confinement, given a bad conduct discharge, and reduced in rank to E-1, or airman basic, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said. In 2014, he unsuccessfully appealed his conviction with the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and was officially dishonorably discharged from the military.
Because he was dishonorably discharged, Kelley should not have been able to legally own any firearms. According to the L.A. Times, “Federal law prohibits a person who has been dishonorably discharged from buying a firearm. Whether Kelley’s discharge would trigger the law was not immediately clear.”
However, the governor of Texas told CNN that Kelley was denied a gun permit by the state. “So how was it that he was able to get a gun? By all the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun,” Gov. Abbott said.
In Comal County, where Kelley lived, he only had minor traffic offenses, according to public records.
Kelley was a Vacation Bible School teacher and worked nights as a security guard at a water park.
Despite Kelley liking pages devoted to atheism, at one point in life, he was a Vacation Bible School teacher. His LinkedIn page stated that he was a “VBS teacher aid” for “VBS AT KINGSVILLE FB” in June 2013.
He wrote, “Volunteer duration 1 mo. Cause Children. Teaching children ages 4-6 at vocational bible schools helping their minds grow and prosper.” (Ed. Note: He did NOT teach VBS at the Sutherland Springs church.)
It’s chilling to know that he had children under his care, and would murder a number of children a little more than four years later. Additionally, VBS stands for Vacation Bible School, not “vocational” bible school as Kelley wrote.
Kelley also indicated on his LinkedIn page that he cared about causes such as civil rights and social action, animal welfare, children, arts and culture, the environment, health and human rights.
Kelley wrote on his LinkedIn page that he was a “hard working dedicated person” and he lived by “core values on which the Air Force go by.”
Apparently, the Air Force failed to enter the record of Kelley’s domestic abuse conviction into the national background check system, which, according to a spokesperson for the Air Force, would have prohibited him from buying or owning firearms.
Though Kelley wasn’t licensed to carry a firearm in Texas, he did have an unarmed private security license “similar to a security guard at a concert,” Texas department of public safety spokesman Freeman Martin said, which meant he passed criminal background and fingerprint checks.
Over the summer, Kelley was employed as a night-time security guard at a water park in New Braunfels, TX, and he also had a job in security at an RV resort at the time of the shooting, according to the San Antonio Express.
The manager of the resort said that Kelley had passed a background check and was hired about six weeks ago, but left work on Saturday “saying he had a headache” and didn’t show up the next day.
Devin Kelley was married twice and had a strange affinity for dating teenage girls. He also beat his first wife’s infant son so badly that he fractured his skull.
A woman on Facebook named Danielle Shields (pictured above) is believed to be Devin Kelley’s current wife. The woman’s Facebook page says they were married in April 2014, and Kelley appeared to have personal ties to the Sutherland Springs church through his mother-in-law (Shields’ mother).
Her page also has a photo of two small children, including an infant. On Instagram, Danielle, who seems to have changed her last name to her maiden name Shields after Sunday’s incident, wrote: “Danielle Kelley Mom life nature enthusiast free spirit married to my best friend dog fanatic.”
Comal County court records show Devin and Danielle got married in April 2014 when he was 23 and she was 19, not too long after he was discharged from the military. But, plot twist, Danielle isn’t Devin’s first wife. According to online records, three years prior, Kelley married a woman, Tessa K. Loge (his first wife), in April 2011, when she was 18 and he was 20.
Kelley and his first wife, Tessa, were living in New Mexico at the time of his 2012 domestic violence incident, in which he abused her and her infant son (his stepson), which caused him to be discharged from the military.
“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.”
According to the NY Times, a few months after marrying his second wife, Danielle, Kelley moved with her to Colorado, where he was arrested for beating their pet pit bull puppy. When police arrived at the trailer park where they were living at the time, Kelley refused to come out of their trailer, causing an hour-long standoff.
Kelley was eventually arrested and given a deferred probationary sentence and ordered to pay $368 in restitution. The case was dismissed when he completed his sentence in March 2016, and the couple moved in with Kelley’s parents in Braunfels, Texas sometime this year.
At some point after moving back to Texas, authorities say Kelley and Danielle became estranged, though it’s unclear exactly what happened. They were still legally married at the time of the shooting, and Danielle’s Facebook profile still listed her relationship status as “married.”
Disturbingly, a woman named Brittany Adcock says she dated Kelley for two months in 2009 when he was 18 and she was 13. “At the time I didn’t think much into it being so young but now I realize that there’s something off about someone who is 18 with someone who is 13,” she told NBC.
Adcock said after she dumped Kelley, he refused to accept that their relationship was over, and tried to get her back by any means necessary, including offering her money to live with him and his wife (possibly his first wife, Tessa) as a topless maid.
Multiple children, including the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter, and a pregnant woman, were among the victims of the deadly shooting.
Among the dozens of parishioners at Sutherland Springs’ First Baptist Church who were shot, a number of the victims were young children, including four from one family, two 5-year-olds (a boy and a girl), a 7-year-old girl and an 8-year-old girl who hid under a pew (who, fortunately, didn’t suffer any gunshot wounds).
30-year-old Joann Ward and her daughters Brooke Ward (the 5-year-old girl) and Emily Garza (the 7-year-old girl) were fatally shot, their family confirmed to the Dallas Morning News. Ward’s son, Ryland Ward (the 5-year-old boy, pictured below) was shot four times and underwent surgery Sunday. His condition was critical and it wasn’t immediately known whether he’d survive. Thankfully, after two months, Ryland was released from the hospital. Another daughter of Joann Ward, 8-year-old Rhianna Garza, didn’t suffer any potentially fatal gunshot wounds because she hid under a pew after a bullet only broke her glasses.
5 yr old Rylan Ward was shot four times today in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
He is currently in surgery.
Say a prayer for the young champ. pic.twitter.com/a2okEbr3tj
— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) November 6, 2017
The Ward family’s husband and father, Chris Ward, didn’t attend the Sunday morning services because he was sleeping after working a night shift, and his brother woke him up to the devastating news. The two of them helped carry the bloodied, injured people from the church, according to BuzzFeed.
BuzzFeed also reported the reason a lot of the victims were children because they had just come back from Sunday School and were in the back of the church (near the entrance).
The first confirmed victim of the shooting was the 14-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy, who, along with his wife Sherri, was out of town at the time. Pastor Pomeroy described his daughter Anabelle as “one beautiful special child” to ABC News.
“My husband and I were ironically out of town in two different states. We lost our 14-year-old daughter today and many friends,” Sherri Pomeroy told CBS News Sunday. “Neither of us have made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation. I am at the Charlotte airport trying to get home as soon as I can.”
The church regularly posts videos of its services on YouTube, and authorities revealed Monday (Nov. 6) that they have reviewed video evidence from inside the church, though it hasn’t been released the public.
According to the church’s official website, its youth members are heavily involved in the congregation:
The youth group of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs is comprised of a diverse and dedicated group of young people in grades 7 through 12 that have a heart for service and a love for God and each other. Students in the youth group here are active in their families, church, community and schools. At FBCSS, youth lessons are Bibles based, Christ centered and God worshipped! A variety of youth classes and activities are offered, from object lessons dealing with everyday situations teenagers face to drama class to Sunday School, plus camps and conferences, and “just for fun” stuff! The youth are also involved in many outreach and community service activities such as visiting a local nursing home, running a concession stand, helping neighbors clear property after a storm and participating in our church workdays. We meet every Wednesday at 7:00 PM, Thursday at 7:00 PM and Sunday at 9:45 AM. Come as you are. We are looking forward to meeting you!
John Holcombe, one man who survived the shooting, lost his parents, his pregnant wife, Crystal, their unborn child, and three of their children. His two other children were in critical condition.
Days after the shooting, Holcombe released a statement via Facebook, which read:
“Thank you all for your love, prayers, and support. Philip, Evelyn, and myself thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Please continue to pray for us in the coming days / weeks / months as we work through all of the issues. I ask for prayers for health, healing, guidance, wisdom, discernment, understanding, protection, and God’s will in our decisions and in our lives. Also please keep our Church family in your prayers. Thank you!”
A second post read:
“Regarding our baby, we don’t know if it was a boy or a girl. It was too soon to tell. However, we have a name for our baby, who died in the womb. Carlin Brite “Billy Bob” Holcombe. This includes Crystal’s pick for a girl, a boy, and the nickname the kids gave the baby.Crystal was very thoughtful when coming up with these names. Carlin means small champion. It also sounds like Karla, Carolyn, and Charles. “Billy Bob” is the nickname the kids gave the baby.”
As many as 20 other people were also injured. Reporters at the scene said that among the response vehicles was an “ambu-bus,” which is used to transport multiple victims.
According to the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung:
Nick Uhlig, 34, is a church member who didn’t go Sunday morning because he was out late Saturday night. He said his cousins were at the church and that his family was told at least one of them, a woman with three children and pregnant with another, is among the dead.
“We just gathered to bury their grandfather on Thursday,” he said. “This is the only church here. We have Bible study, men’s Bible study, vacation Bible school.”
George Hill told The Los Angeles Times, “I lost a niece who was pregnant and three of her babies.”
The youngest to die from the shooting was 18 months, while the oldest was 77.
Kelley’s grandmother-in-law (his wife’s grandmother, mother-in-law’s mother) was also killed in the massacre.
Officials confirmed Monday (Nov. 6) that Kelley’s mother-in-law was a member of the church, and there was a “domestic situation” involving the family. Kelley was said to be on bad terms with his wife’s mother, Michelle Shields, and he had recently “expressed anger” towards her and sent her “threatening texts.”
Although Michelle wasn’t attending church services Sunday when the massacre happened, her mother (Kelley’s wife’s grandmother, his mother-in-law) Lula Woicinski White was killed in the shooting.
Authorities wouldn’t go into further detail about the “situation” between Kelley and his mother-in-law, but said the mass shooting was possibly the result of a domestic situation and was not racially or religiously motivated.