On Wednesday, the US Department of Justice announced a $144.5 million settlement for claims linked to the November 2017 church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
In 2021, a federal court ordered the US government to pay for the shooting’s 26 deaths and 22 injuries. The US Air Force was found to have acted unreasonably by failing to notify the shooter’s criminal record of the FBI’s background check system, raising the potential for extensive harm.
After the shooting, Air Force officials acknowledged they neglected to alert civilian authorities about shooter Devin Patrick Kelley’s court-martial conviction for domestic violence, which may have prevented him from obtaining his weapons.
Specific arrangements need court approval, the DOJ said Wednesday.
Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said no words or money could lessen the tragedy in Sutherland Springs. Gupta hoped the news would allow the victims of this awful tragedy to move on.
The DOJ is appealing a verdict that held the Air Force partly accountable for the 2017 Texas church shooting.
On a November Sunday morning in 2017, a shooter opened fire at First Baptist Church in a small community 30 miles east of San Antonio. The pastor’s 14-year-old daughter and the shooter’s grandmother-in-law died.
A gunman confronted Kelley as he left the church. Kelley traveled to another county and shot himself in the head. Authorities found him.
Kelley was hauled to the military court in 2012 for abusing his wife and child. Kelley was demoted to E-1, or airman essential, and given a 12-month detention and unsatisfactory behavior discharge.
A law enforcement source informed CNN that Kelley could lawfully buy the Ruger AR-556 he used in the massacre from a store in April 2016.
The shooter’s military conviction was not disclosed to the National Crime Information Center, a government database checked before weapon purchases. If it had, gun dealers wouldn’t have sold Kelley firearms.
In a case brought by survivors and relatives of the victims, Western District of Texas Judge Xavier Rodriguez found the government 60% responsible for damages.
The DOJ appealed the 2021 judgment early this year, despite a CNN report that the government and plaintiffs were negotiating an out-of-court settlement.