Texas church shooter escaped mental health facility months after attack on wife, child

Police report: Devin Kelley made death threats against Air Force superiors

Devin Kelley
Devin Kelley

HOUSTON – Law enforcement documents show Texas church shooter Devin Kelley escaped from a behavioral center in New Mexico about five years before Sunday’s deadly rampage in Sutherland Springs.

That's according to our sister station KPRC-TV, which first reported the news.

An incident report filed by the El Paso Police Department states Kelley was picked up at a bus terminal in downtown El Paso before midnight on the evening of June 7, 2012. The report states two officers were dispatched to the terminal to look into a missing person report. 

READ: Incident report on Devin Kelley

When they arrived, the two officers learned Kelley had escaped from Peak Behavioral Health Services in Santa Teresa, New Mexico. A witness on the scene told the officers that Kelley, who was 21 years old at the time, had “suffered from mental disorders and had plans to run to from Peak Behavioral Health Services” by purchasing a bus ticket out of state.

The witness informed officers that Kelley “was a danger to himself and others as he had already been caught sneaking firearms onto Holloman Air Force base,” located approximately 100 miles from the bus terminal. The report further states that Kelley “was attempting to carry out death threats” he had made on his military superiors.

The El Paso police officers spoke with Kelley after later finding him at the terminal. The report states he did not make threatening comments.  

Kelley was released to police officers from Sunland Park Police Department in New Mexico, located just across the state line. Peak Behavioral Health Services is located a few miles from Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

The final page of the report states that there was an entry submitted to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database.

READ: Military Discharges Explained

The El Paso incident took place months after Air Force documents state Kelley had attacked his wife by striking and kicking her and pulling her hair. Kelley, according to the documents, also pointed a loaded firearm at her.

Kelley was also charged with unlawfully striking his child on various occasions between April 27, 2011, and June 16, 2011. Records indicate Kelley plead “G” (guilty) to assault on a child and the assault on his wife. Records show he pleaded “NG” (not guilty) on the others that were “withdrawn and dismissed with prejudice” after Kelley’s arraignment.  

Kelley received a general court martial and was sentenced on Nov. 7, 2012. He was handed a bad conduct discharge, 12 months of confinement and a reduction in rank to the grade of E-1.

The sentence came exactly five months to the day after the attempted escape from the behavioral facility in southern New Mexico. 

An Air Force spokesperson told Channel 2 Investigates that they cannot comment on the 2012 report, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). 

Rick Rousseau, a retired Army Colonel and Judge Advocate for 27 years, said he is not surprised that Kelley may have been in a behavioral facility in the midst of his legal battles.

“It would be a normal course of negotiation that he had been in behavioral health in advance of going to court," he said.

Rousseau also added that if the move was a preventative measure by Kelley and his team that it probably would have been revealed.

“At a minimum the defense attorney may have told the prosecutor," Rousseau said.