Air Force admits it failed to send Sutherland Springs gunman’s records to feds
The Air Force said Tuesday that its investigation has confirmed that it failed to report Sutherland Springs gunman Devin Kelley’s 2012 convictions for spousal and child abuse to civilian law enforcement authorities, and that it would correct lapses in the system over the next several weeks.
The Air Force Inspector General confirmed that Office of Special Investigations and Security Forces personnel at Holloman AFB in New Mexico didn’t report to an FBI database, as required of felony offenses, Kelley’s 12-month sentence for abuses that included fracturing his baby stepson’s skull.
The review, launched immediately after Kelley was identified as the gunman in the Nov. 5 shooting that killed 26 people, also found the error was not an isolated incident and that similar reporting lapses by the Air Force occurred at other locations. Although policies and procedures requiring reporting were in place, training and compliance measures were lacking.
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“At this point we’ve found dozens that we’ve corrected, so we’re going through them case by case and as we find an error we correct it on the spot,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said, adding that she could not describe the nature of those offenses. “We’re not going to have any other information available until the complete review” is done.
Kelley was able to legally purchase weapons that included the semi-automatic rifle he used to kill 26 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs because there was no record in the national instant background check system listing his conviction.
The Air Force, in a statement, said its Office of Special Investigations had “already implemented corrective measures to ensure compliance with reporting requirements to civilian law enforcement. In addition, Air Force Security Forces have also implemented several corrective measures and remaining actions will be completed in the next few weeks.”
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein directed OSI and Security Forces to review all records with reportable offenses across the Air Force back to 2002. More than 60,000 cases described as “serious offenses” will be scrutinized by OSI and Security forces teams.
The new procedures include a leadership requirement at the field, regional and headquarters levels to verify that information from applicable cases is registered with the FBI’s National Crime Information Center’s Interstate Identification Index. Additionally, supporting software, checklist and training changes were made to support the new procedures.
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The Air Force OSI also will require physical verification, in the form of a printout or screenshot, from the National Crime Information Center, that the criminal history information is accurately documented in the law enforcement system.
This change will require Air Force personnel to verify that information has been received by the FBI — not just that it has been sent. Finally, the Air Force also made technical modifications to the OSI investigation management system to ensure the printout/screenshot can be entered into the OSI digital case file so more senior officials can certify the reporting. Checklists for case closure were also updated.
Security Forces has also ordered a review of policy and procedures as well as a review of compliance with those procedures.
A pair of task forces composed of 60 Security Forces and OSI personnel will work to ensure compliance with the new initiatives. In the meantime, the release stated that it is “correcting all identified deficiencies as they are discovered and reporting them to civilian law enforcement.” That process that will be overseen by the Air Force’s inspector general and require several months to complete.
“It will also be reviewed by the Department of Defense IG as well,” Stefanek said.