Sutherland Springs: Mass shooters often have domestic violence trait

Domestic violence is a trait often shared by U.S. mass shooters, whose rage can evolve into public manifestations.

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Orlando. Las Vegas. Now Sutherland Springs, Texas. A history of domestic violence was shared among these killers.

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First responder Torie McCallum was on her way to the Texas church shooting when she realized through her phone dispatch it was the church her family attended. She would soon learn that her pregnant sister-in-law and three children were killed. (Nov. 8)
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Paul Brunner was among the first to respond to the tragic shooting deaths of more than two dozen people inside a rural Texas church on Sunday. The emergency medical chief described his team’s efforts as a battlefield triage of sorts. (Nov. 8)
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The K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry arrived in Sutherland Springs, Texas, to provide therapy and love to those affected by the shooting at the town’s First Baptist Church on Sunday. (Nov. 8)
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17-year-old Alison Gould of San Antonio showed up outside First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs Wednesday to talk about her best friend, 16-year-old Hailey Krueger, killed in Sunday’s church shooting. (Nov. 8)
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The man who police say killed 26 people, including an unborn child, at a Sutherland Springs, Texas church had a string of run-ins with the law starting with charges of threatening superior officers int he military. (Nov. 8).
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What we know about the gunman’s AR-556 rifle and the modifications you can make to those guns.
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After multiple mass shootings across the country in the past decade, many have grown weary on wordy condolences without action.
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Sutherland Springs, Texas is reeling from the loss of so many of their friends and family. Hear in their own words how they’re leaning on each other and honoring the precious lives lost.
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AR-15 style rifles have been used in multiple mass shootings in recent years. See what makes the semi-automatic gun so popular.
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About a half mile from the site of the worst mass shooting in Texas history, 26 crosses dot the landscape of an empty lot next to the only baseball diamond in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (Nov. 7)
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Mark Collins, who formerly served as associate pastor at the church that saw Sunday’s massacre, returned to Sutherland Springs to show support and comfort victims of the shooting that claimed 26 lives, and wounded many more. (Nov. 7)
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Speaker Paul Ryan expressed frustration that the suspected gunman in Sunday’s Texas church shooting was able to get a gun after being convicted of domestic abuse. Ryan said more needs to be done to enforce the “laws on the books.” (Nov. 7)
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A Texas couple who attended Sunday’s service where 26 worshippers were fatally shot says the gunman appeared to target babies who cried and others who screamed or made noise. (Nov. 7)
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Speaking through tears, Stephen Willeford, the man some are calling a hero for engaging in a shootout with the Texas church gunman on Sunday, says he was afraid for his life but that he believes God gave him the skills needed to face the shooter. (Nov. 6)
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The man who confronted Texas church shooting suspect Devin Patrick Kelley had help from another local resident, Johnnie Langendorff. (Nov. 6)
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In chilling video, Bryan Holcombe can be seen leading his church family to a place of understanding after the Las Vegas shooting and just days before he and 25 of his parishioners were gunned down inside Sutherland Springs baptist church.
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The small town of Sutherland Springs, Texas is reeling from a horrific mass shooting that left 26 people dead on Sunday at the First Baptist Church. Witnesses recall the terror and also remember a tight-knit community. (Nov. 6)
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The former U.S. Air Force service member served a year in confinement for domestic violence charges.
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Texas law enforcement authorities say the gunman who killed 26 members of a church on Sunday was shot three times, twice by a citizen. The gunman, officials said, had sustained shots to the leg and torso; a third shot was “self-inflicted.” (Nov. 6)
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A vigil was held in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Monday night for the victims of Sunday’s church shooting. (Nov. 7)
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Authorities believe Texas church gunman killed himself
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Officials say that the 26 people killed in a shooting at a small South Texas church range in age from 18 months to 77 years old. (Nov. 6)
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The suspected shooter was discharged from the U.S. Air Force in 2014 and had been convicted of domestic violence.
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A budget amendment blocks federal funding from being spent on any study that might ‘advocate or promote gun control.’
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Several government officials went to Twitter to express their views on the mass shooting in Sutherland, Texas.
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San Antonio Spurs forward Pau Gasol and head coach Gregg Popovich both addressed the shooting that took place in Sutherland Springs, Texas with Gasol saying that America’s gun laws need to be addressed.
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Sherri Pomeroy, wife of Sutherland Spring’s Pastor Frank Pomeroy, shared the memory of their 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, who died in the mass shooting in their family church that left 26 dead, many of them children.
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Johnnie Langendorff was driving near First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs when he saw the gunman exchanging fire with another man. Hear what happened next.
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At least 26 people were gunned down at the First Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A group of mourners gathered to remember the lives lost.
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A man dressed in black and armed with an assault rifle opened fire inside a church in South Texas on Sunday, killing 26 and wounding at least 16 others in what the governor called the deadliest mass shooting in the state’s history. (Nov. 5)
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President Donald Trump, speaking in Japan, said the shooting that killed 26 people in a church near San Antonio, Texas is the result of a ‘mental health problem at the highest level. (Nov. 6)
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A teary-eyed Gov. Greg Abbott asks parents to give their kids a “big hug” in his first press conference since the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs shooting where at least 26 people were killed.
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A member of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs says on a normal Sunday, there are 40 parishioners. A gunman killed at least 20 of them.
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Speaking from Tokyo, President Donald Trump called the deadly church shooting in Texas Sunday “an act of evil.” (Nov. 5)
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Pastors of churches around Sutherland Springs, Texas described the moments after they were notified there had been a shooting at a church in town. More than 20 people were killed when a gunman opened fire during a service on Sunday. (Nov. 11)
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At least 20 people are dead after a gunman walked into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, and started firing. Here’s an aerial view of the scene.
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Here is what we know about the shooting at a church in Texas near San Antonio that caused multiple fatalities.
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An unidentified shooter has left several victims after opening fire at a church in Texas.
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Investigators outside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs where 26 people where killed in a mass shooting Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (Photo: Courtney Sacco/Caller-Times)Buy Photo

Domestic violence is a trait often shared by U.S. mass shooters, whose rage can evolve into public manifestations like the horrific scene inside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Devin Patrick Kelley’s history of domestic violence — including 2012 allegations of assaulting his former wife and infant stepson, and a 2014 case of abusing his now-current wife — is a recognized precursor of lethal ends as batterers fight to maintain control, experts say. 

Kelley on Sunday killed 25 people including a woman who was pregnant and wounded another 20 at the church in the small, rural community about 30 miles outside San Antonio. His mother-in-law, whom officials say he had sent threatening text messages, had attended the church. She wasn’t there that day. Neither was his wife.

Kelley was in what authorities described as a “domestic situation,” which included an ongoing dispute with his wife’s family.

More:  Military court goes light on domestic abuse for Texas shooter

More: How was he missed? Menacing Texas church gunman left series of red flags

The lead-up to the shooting shouldn’t be described as a domestic dispute or domestic situation, but domestic violence – to the extent of “almost obliterating her existence through the community,” said Aaron Setliff, policy director at the Texas Commission on Family Violence.

Nationwide, about 57 percent of mass shooters killed family members between 2009 and 2015 – and about 15 percent of those shooters were previously accused of domestic violence, according to a study cited by the nonprofit.

A woman visits a makeshift memorial in Sutherland Springs with 26 crosses honoring the victims killed in First Baptist Church on Nov. 7, 2017. The shooter killed 25 including a pregnant woman whose unborn child died. (Photo: Courtney Sacco, Caller-Times via USA TODAY NETWORK)

Those figures represent a strong link, Setliff said: it’s what he described as violence from behind closed doors erupting into public spaces.

Advocates have long said that lethal confrontations are often preceded by an escalation of power and control of abusers, who repeatedly attempt to increase fear and submission by their intended targets. What may start as verbal abuse can turn to physical abuse, threats or introducing weapons in private. For some, when that is no longer effective, it reaches a crescendo ending in homicide – sometimes to include those not directly involved.

People pray during a memorial service for victims of the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, at the La Vernia High School in Texas on Nov. 7, 2017. The shooter killed 25 including a pregnant woman whose unborn child died. (Photo: Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images)

Ready access to firearms, a history of animal cruelty – in Kelley’s case, accusations that he beat his dog, leading to a formal charge in Colorado – and ongoing domestic violence lay out a troubling path that would make a final, lethal confrontation more likely. 

Kelley has repeatedly been accused of sexual violence as well.

Several recent attacks show roots or precursors in abusive relationships, including the shooting at an Orlando night club in 2016. The gunman’s girlfriend described routine domestic violence.

The shooter on the Las Vegas strip, meanwhile, was reported by several media agencies to have verbally abused his girlfriend in public. 

A 2016 analysis of domestic violence deaths in Texas show 146 women killed by male partners, according to the Texas commission. Another 24 people, including children, were killed in the same events.

More: Harrowing moments inside Texas church: Gunman shouted ‘everybody die,’ fired at crying children

In Texas, the most recent multi-homicide incident – also considered a domestic violence episode – was in September, when a man killed his estranged wife at a Dallas Cowboys watch party at their Plano home. Seven of their friends at the watch party were also killed. 

In violent situations between family members and intimate partners, bystanders, intervenors or those who may have just been “near that power, control and rage the batterer exhibits… (can) become targets of that public display of power and control,” Setliff said.

Federal and state laws restrict or ban convicted felons and abusers from possessing or purchasing guns. In Texas, restrictions extend also to those named in protective orders for the duration of protective orders, according to victims’ advocates.

Studies indicate immediate access to guns increases the chances of homicide by a much as 500 percent when perpetrators have a gun in the home.

Kelley was not legally permitted to purchase the firearms used in the attack that killed victims between the ages of 18 months and 77 years.

More: Trump, Ryan: Stricter gun laws not the answer to massacres

He was charged with assaulting his wife and stepson while serving in the Air Force. Federal officials were required to input Kelley’s information into a national database that would have blocked him from purchasing firearms following the incident, but failed to do so. 

In Texas, there are no established processes to ensure convicted abusers turn over their firearms, Setliff said. The state would have room to improve, he said, with greater investigation into whether the convicted have surrendered his or her weapons, as well as increased prosecutions if they had not. In South Texas, several counties are working on enacting such policies.

Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt Jr. walks past the front doors where bullet holes were marked by police at the First Baptist Church, Tuesday in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A man opened fire inside the church in the small South Texas community on Sunday, killing more than two dozen and injuring others. (Photo: David J. Phillip, AP)

In a statementTexas Rep. Abel Herrero – who has been extensively involved in state legislation to combat family violence – did not specify increased measures that could be taken, but wrote that the Sutherland Springs shooting “is a tragic example of how domestic violence can escalate.”

“Unfortunately, this is something we have seen time and time again,” he wrote. “We must continue to do more to stop this cycle of violence.”

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