WASHINGTON – The alleged gunman in the killing of 26 people at a church in Texas escaped from a mental health facility in 2012, according to an incident report that surfaced Tuesday.
The report, which a Texas television station obtained and posted at its website, describes alleged shooter Devin Kelley as a danger to himself and others.
The report also says Kelley had tried to carry out death threats on his military superiors while serving in the Air Force and had been caught sneaking fire arms onto Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, where he had been stationed.
Police in El Paso, Texas, filed the report after they were informed that Kelley had escaped from the facility in neighbouring New Mexico on June 7, 2012.
The revelation comes as investigators looking into the shooting, which killed 26 people at the church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, said they believe there is evidence that would aid the investigation on Kelley’s mobile phone, but they can’t access it because it is encrypted.
The mobile phone is being examined at an FBI laboratory outside Washington, where technology experts are working to get past the encryption, FBI special agent Christopher Combs said at a news conference.
“Unfortunately at this point in time we are unable to get access into the phone,” Combs said at a news conference. He said they would continue their efforts until they get access to the phone.
As police work to understand what prompted the gunman to open fire on the congregation, investigators clarified that one of the 26 people who were killed was an unborn child. They also said 10 people remain hospitalized in critical condition.
Fred Malinowski, special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), said the shooter used a semiautomatic rifle. It was not equipped with a bump stock to make it fire rapidly, as was the case when a gunman killed 58 people October 1 in Las Vegas.
Investigators also said a conflict between two families was behind the shooting, said Freeman Martin, Texas Department of Public Safety regional commander. They believe the shooter acted alone and said there was no evidence pointing to religion as a motivating factor.
The shooting on Sunday in Sutherland Springs, about 48 kilometres south-east of San Antonio, touched off another round of soul searching in the United States over gun-ownership laws. Despite the number of attacks and the growing severity, attempts to tighten federal gun laws have been rebuffed.
One member of Congress expressed his frustration by walking off the floor of the House of Representatives during a moment of silence on Tuesday.
“I will not be silent. What we need is action,” said Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California. He said he’d been to too many moments of silence prompted by shootings during his less-than-two-years in Congress.
Lieu wants Congress to pass gun safety legislation requiring universal background checks on every legal gun purchase, and creating a ban on assault rifles and a ban on bump stocks, a device that can make a semiautomatic weapon fire almost as fast as a machine gun.
In response, Donald Trump Jr, President Donald Trump’s son, retweeted messages critical of Lieu.
Asked about the shooting, Trump, who is on a five-country Asia trip, said Tuesday in Seoul there is no reason to amend firearm legislation. He said if the gunman had not been stopped by other people who were also armed, things could have been much worse.
Trump said Monday that mental health problems were the root cause.
The gunman was wounded by a neighbour who pursued him as he left the church and was later found dead in his vehicle of what police believe was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. -DPA