The devastating Sutherland Springs church shooting that took place on November 5 left 26 dead and many more injured. The shooter, 26 year-old Devin P. Kelley was killed shortly after opening fire on the Texas Baptist church. Included in the death toll were eight members of the tight knit Holcombe family, including an unborn child that died with his mother. In the aftermath of the shooting, the Holcombe family has now filed a wrongful death lawsuit against U.S. Air Force.
The Daily News reports on the allegations made in the Holcombe wrongful death lawsuit, "The Holcombe's death was caused, in whole or in part, by the institutional failures of the United States Department of Defense, including but not limited to the United States Air Force...these entities negligently, recklessly, carelessly and/or egregiously failed to report pertinent criminal arrest, conviction and military discharge information of the shooter into the federal database, as was required, which would have prevented and barred the shooter from purchasing, owning or possessing firearms, ammunition and body armor he used in the shooting.
Before the suit was even filed the Air Force admitted to their failure to report Kelly's criminal history to the Department of Justice. Can this omission mean that they are liable for the deaths caused by the shooting deaths that occurred? Perhaps. While wrongful death cases against government agencies are considerably more complicated when it comes to paperwork and other technical details, the liability analysis is the same. While the Air Force did not pull the trigger, their omission made it possible for Kelly to. Put differently, had the Air Force followed protocol and reported Kelly's domestic violence history, the Texas and Colorado gun stores he purchased the four guns he used in the shooting would have seen his name in the database and not sold the guns to him. Seeking specified damages, the Holcombe's have a very strong case against the Air Force and it would not be surprising if the families of other victims also filed suit.
Kelly had a court-martial conviction for domestic assault on his record but the failure to report it to the necessary agencies meant that his name did not show up in the databases gun shops check before selling firearms. CNN quotes the statement released by the Air Force shortly after the shooting, "Had his information been in the database, it should have prevented gun sales to Kelly."