Feds seeking dismissal of lawsuits by survivors of Sutherland Springs massacre

May 14, 2019 GMT

A hearing is scheduled today to take up the government’s motion seeking to dismiss lawsuits filed against the Air Force by victims of the Sutherland Springs massacre.

Lawyers with the Justice Department, which is defending the Air Force, claim a law meant to prevent gun violence also shields federal employees who mess up.

On ExpressNews.com: Sutherland Springs lawsuits to be consolidated

At least six lawsuits by survivors or relatives of victims, which have been consolidated in federal court in San Antonio, claim the Air Force should be liable for failing to report shooter Devin Patrick Kelley’s domestic violence conviction to an FBI database. Kelley had a history of behavioral problems and was kicked out of the military branch in 2014 after serving a year in the brig. The time behind bars was part of a plea deal in 2012 for a domestic violence incident in which he beat his wife and fractured his stepson’s skull.


His conviction never appeared on the National Criminal Information Center database, or NCIC, which would have prevented him from legally purchasing firearms that he bought between 2012 and 2014, according to the lawsuits, which cite the 25-year-old Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.

Among the guns Kelley obtained was an AR-556 rifle he bought in April 2016 that he used to kill 26 worshippers and injure more than 20 at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs on Nov. 5, 2017.

The Air Force has already publicly admitted it did not report the conviction as it is required to do.

On ExpressNews.com: Feds claim Brady Act shields them from bureaucratic bungling in Sutherland Springs shootings

But in a 40-page motion filed in November, the government lawyers cite a number of cases and laws they believe shield the Air Force personnel from bureaucratic bungling, including the Brady Act. In a series of responses, lawyers for the victims say the government is mistaken and demand Air Force officials be held accountable.

The hearing is before U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez.

Guillermo Contreras covers federal courts in San Antonio and international legal issues. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | gcontreras@express-news.net | Twitter: @gmaninfedland