DOJ to Pay $144 Million Over Church Shooting

( – Failing to log dangerous behavior into a national database designed to prevent sales of guns to dangerous individuals will likely cost the Department of Justice (DOJ) $144 million.

The DOJ announced on April 5th that it has reached an  “agreement in principle” to pay $144 million to settle claims from 75 plaintiffs related to a mass shooting at a Texas church in 2017.

The 2017 attack was carried out by Devin Patrick Kelly, formerly in the Air Force. Kelly opened fire at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, killing 26 people before killing himself.

Kelly was kicked out of the Air Force in 2015 after five years of service. He had been convicted of beating his wife and stepson; he left his stepson with a cracked skull. But the Air Force has admitted that it did not put his violent felony conviction in the FBI database that is supposed to stop violent criminals from buying guns.

Announcing the settlement, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said, “No words or amount of money can diminish the immense tragedy” of the shooting. The DOJ admitted that a federal district court in Texas ruled that the United States was liable to the victims and their families for failing to carry out its lawful duty to log felons in the gun database.

In a 2021 ruling, U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez said that if the government had done its job  “it is more likely than not” that Kelley would have been deterred from carrying out the massacre.

The “agreement in principle” between the DOJ and the plaintiffs has been agreed to by all parties. It will become effective after the courts approve the details. When this happens, that will end all civil cases against the government in connection with the 2017 mass shooting.

Congregants took matters into their own hands when Kelley opened fire. Two churchgoers shot at and chased him; two bullets hit Kelley. 

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