DOJ Tentatively Settles Church Shooting Lawsuit

April 5, 2023

The Department of Justice on Wednesday said it has tentatively settled a lawsuit over the 2017 mass shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Some 26 people were murdered when the gunman released at least 450 rounds upon worshippers during Sunday services on November 5, 2017.

On Wednesday, the DOJ said it would pay the victims and their families more than $144 million, subject to court approvals. 

The settlement comes after U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez had previously ruled that the Air Force was “60% liable” for the attack because it failed to submit gunman Devin Patrick Kelley’s assault conviction during his time in the Air Force into a national database.

Kelley had served nearly five years in the Air Force before he was discharged in 2014 for bad conduct, after he was convicted of assaulting his former wife and stepson. The child’s skull was cracked amid Kelley’s attack. 

Had the Air Force publicly acknowledge the domestic violence conviction and entered it into an FBI database, Kelley could have been prevented from buying guns from licensed dealers. 

“[I]t is more likely than not that Kelley would have been deterred from carrying out the Church shooting” had the government done its job, Rodriguez said in 2021.

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