The man police blamed for Sunday’s mass shooting at a Texas church had a “connection” to the location and was “a powder keg waiting to go off,” Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday.
Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, the suspect in the massacre at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs that killed at least 26 and wounded 20, had in-laws who occasionally attended services at the church, but weren’t there on Sunday, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told reporters.
“I do believe that there was a connection between him and this location that will come to light over the coming days,” Abbott (R) said during an appearance on “CBS This Morning” on Monday. “I don’t think this church was picked out at random. I think there was purpose and intent that Devin Kelley had in showing up at this location.”
Kelley lived in New Braunfels, roughly 30 miles northeast of San Antonio, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
He is a former member of the U.S. Air Force who served in logistics readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge in 2014, according to USAF spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.
The Air Force said late Sunday that Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 for assault on his spouse and their child. He received a bad conduct discharge, a 12-month sentence in a military prison and a reduction in rank for the offense. That same year he was reportedly sued for divorce in New Mexico, The New York Times reported.
Abbott on Monday called Kelley “a powder keg waiting to go off” and said state law should have prevented him from buying a gun.
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) November 6, 2017
Kelley “apparently” had mental health issues, according to Abbott, and his application for a Texas gun license was previously denied. “Current law should have prevented him from being able to get a gun,” he said.
“He was rejected either because he didn’t fully answer all the questions that are required to get a Texas gun permit or he answered those questions wrong,” Abbott said on “Fox & Friends.”
The suspected gunman lived in a “barndominium” next to his parents’ home for at least a decade, neighbors Mark and Terry Moravitz told KSAT.
“Nothing abnormal. Regular guy,” Mark 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.”
Yet the gunfire in recent days coming from Kelley’s home seemed abnormal, according to Ryan Albers, another neighbor.
It was “really loud,” he told The Guardian. “It was someone using automatic weapon fire.”
The shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, which is east of San Antonio, occurred at 11:30 a.m. local time. The incident claimed 26 lives and wounded 20 others, Wilson County authorities said.
After fleeing the shooting scene, the suspect was found dead by a gunshot wound in his vehicle in neighboring Guadalupe County, Wilson County authorities said. Tackitt said Monday that he believes the wound was self-inflicted.
“The exact circumstances of the gunman’s death are still under investigation,” a statement from the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety said.
Prior to the shooting, the suspect was seen at a gas station dressed in all black before crossing the street to the church and opening fire on the congregation with a “Ruger AR assault-type rifle,” Texas Department of Public Safety regional director Freeman Martin said at a subsequent press conference on Sunday.
“This investigation is ongoing and information surrounding this tragedy is still being gathered and confirmed by law enforcement officials,” the sheriff’s office and Texas DPS said.
Law enforcement officials told media outlets that Kelley purchased his gun at a San Antonio-area sporting good store last April.
Hayley Miller contributed reporting.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.