Texas Gunman Devin Kelley Escaped from Mental Health Facility in 2012
The gunman accused of the worst mass murder in Texas history escaped from a mental health hospital during his stint in the Air Force, according to a 2012 police report.
Police took Devin Kelley into custody on June 7, 2012 at a bus terminal in downtown El Paso, Texas, where he had planned to flee by bus after breaking out of Peak Behavioral Health Services, just over 10 miles away in New Mexico, according to NBC Houston affiliate KPRC. Kelley, who was 21 at the time of the escape, had been sent to the facility after he was accused of assaulting his wife and infant stepson.
The person who reported Kelley missing told El Paso officers that Kelley "was a danger to himself and others as he had already been caught sneaking firearms onto Holloman Air Force Base," where he was stationed at the time, according to the police report obtained by KPRC. He "was attempting to carry out death threats" he had made against his military superiors, the report said.
Xavier Alvarez, a former official at the facility, told NBC News on Tuesday that he was the employee who reported Kelley missing. Right after Kelley "jumped a fence," Alvarez hopped into his truck and began driving through the desert.
"It turned out that several times he had mentioned he was practicing for a 12-mile run," Alvarez said. "So I asked Siri, ‘What is the distance to the Greyhound station?’ And lo and behold, it was 12 miles."
Alvarez tracked down Kelly to the bus station, where he "quickly restrained him."
"He put up no fight," Alvarez said of Kelley. "He laid on the ground and police were there in seconds. … He was very quiet, but he did mention that, given the opportunity, he would try to go for the [officers’] guns."
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek has confirmed that Kelley — who joined the military after graduating from New Braunfels High School in 2009 — was court-martialed in 2012 on two charges of assault.
A retired Air Force colonel who supervised prosecutors when Kelley was brought before the court-martial said Kelley was convicted of fracturing his baby stepson’s skull and assaulting his first wife, Tessa, in an incident at Holloman.
He was confined for a year, given a bad conduct discharge and reduced in rank to E-1, or airman basic, Stefanek said. The military failed to enter the domestic violence case into a database that would have made it illegal for him to buy a gun, officials said.
The entrance to the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, the site of the shooting, is seen in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Nov. 7, 2017.
Alvarez confirmed to NBC News that, during Kelley’s time at the facility, "he [Kelley] had verbalized that he wanted to get some kind of retribution to his chain of command."
He said other patients had reported that Kelley seemed to be up to something on the computers they were allowed to use for things like paying bills. The military examined the computers and it turned out, Alvarez said, that Kelley was "ordering weapons and tactical gear to a P.O. Box in San Antonio."
Kelley gunned down 26 people Sunday inside First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, authorities said. A Glock and a Ruger handgun were discovered inside a Ford Expedition where Kelley’s body was found after a chase following the shooting, authorities said, and a Ruger AR-556 rifle was recovered at the church.
Alvarez said he had a strong relationship with all the service members — but Kelley was an exception. "This kid — he was hollow," Alvarez said. "I could never reach him."
After Kelley was identified as the suspect in the Texas massacre, Alvarez reached a message from one of his former colleagues: "We stopped the first one."