Family members of the nine victims who lost their lives in the Texas church shooting on November 5th are seeking retribution from the Air Force. The families are blaming the Air Force for their loved ones’ deaths, and needing assurance that similar tragedies don’t occur again.
Joe and Claryce Holcombe – the parents of victim John Bryan Holcombe – are filing a wrongful death claim as a result of the murder.
Joe and Claryce Holcome are confident in the claim, as it was former Airman Devin Patrick Kelley that shot John Bryan Holcombe, as well as eight other relatives, at a Sutherland Springs church.
According to Guns.com:
“We want to discipline the Air Force so something like this never happens again,” Joe Holcombe told KSAT News in San Antonio Tuesday. “I just know that God’s in charge and he is going to make whatever should happen, happen.”
Air Force officials earlier this month acknowledged failing to report Kelley’s 2012 assault convictions to federal authorities and directed an agency-wide review of more than 60,000 criminal cases dating back to 2002. So far, officials said Tuesday, multiple instances of unreported convictions have been discovered.
The Holcombes allege in the complaint, however, the Air Force knew about this problem decades before and never did anything about it.
A 2015 review conducted by the Department of Defense’s Inspector General found roughly one-third of all service member convictions weren’t turned over to appropriate law enforcement agencies and criminal databases — a failure uncorrected since auditors first recognized the lapses in 1997.
Military officials at the time agreed with report recommendations to boost compliance, but never followed through on any corrective action — a critical step that may have prevented the church massacre, according to the complaint.
“Simply put, JB Holcombe’s death was caused, in whole or in part, by the institutional failure of the United States Department of Defense, including, but not limited to, the United States Air Force, in that these entities negligently, recklessly, carelessly and/or egregiously failed to report pertinent criminal arrest, conviction and military discharge information of the shooter into a federal database, as was required … ” the complaint says.
Kelley served time in a California military prison after admitting to fracturing his infant stepson’s skull and twice pointing a gun as his wife in 2012 while serving at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. He received a reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge in 2014.
Because of these incidences, Kelley has a criminal background which prevents him from obtaining firearms. However, he was able to purchase four firearms after leaving the military. Of the four is the Ruger AR-556 – Kelley’s weapon of choice in the church massacre.
Because of the Air Force’s negligence in not reporting Kelley’s convictions to the FBI, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System did not have Kelley’s record and thus gave him the opportunity to own the guns.
The Holcombes’ claim states they are seeking corrective action first and foremost in this situation, so as to prevent future circumstances from happening.
According to Guns.com:
“We have a system in place,” said Rob Ammons, the attorney representing the Holcombe family. “We don’t need more laws necessarily. We need more folks to do their jobs.”
“Let’s prevent these servicemen that have been convicted of these violent crimes from getting guns,” Ammons told KSAT News. “Let’s stop that and we’ll worry about the rest later.”