Like many mass murderers, Devin Kelley, who killed 26 innocent churchgoers in Sutherland Springs, Texas, yesterday, was an animal abuser.
It’s a known fact — and a great argument for tougher animal cruelty laws — that there’s an established link between violence against humans and cruelty to animals. Many serial killers, including Robert Durst, Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy, started out by harming dogs and cats. Of the seven school shootings in the U.S. between 1997 and 2001, all the shooters had previously committed acts of animal cruelty, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
So it should probably come as no surprise that in 2014, Kelley was arrested in Colorado Springs for animal cruelty. Three neighbors in the trailer park where he lived at the time saw him jump on his Husky puppy and then punch the defenseless dog in the head and neck several times, Denver7 reports. The witnesses said the puppy was yelping and crying.
“She stated she witnessed four to five punches and then the male suspect grabbed the dog by the neck and drug him away,” according to the police report from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
When deputies arrived at Kelley’s camper, he refused to come out or show them his puppy. When he finally did, one of the deputies said the puppy appeared to be underweight. (A former neighbor at the trailer park told the New York Times yesterday the puppy was a Pit Bull, and Kelley left it “tied up in the sun all day outside of his RV.”)
Kelley told the deputies he chased his puppy when it wouldn’t obey his command to stay. He claimed he jumped on top of the puppy because it was acting aggressively toward another dog. He said he didn’t beat or drag the puppy.
The puppy was taken to an animal hospital for veterinary care. Kelley was charged with animal cruelty and neglect, for which he received a pathetic sentence of 18 months of unsupervised probation. When he completed the probation period, the case was dismissed, a Colorado court spokesperson told Denver7.
Two years prior to that incident, Kelley, who served in the Logistics Readiness division of the U.S. Air Force, was court-martialed for two counts of assault on his wife and 11-month-old stepson — whose skull he said he had intentionally fractured. He was sentenced to 12 months of confinement and a rank reduction.
Kelley’s wife divorced him later that year. Her grandmother, Lula White — whom Kelley had reportedly threatened before — was a member of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. She was among the 26 people Kelley killed.
Despite his violent criminal past, Kelley was still able to purchase automatic weapons and blow away more than two dozen people, ranging in age from 18 months to 77 years. “This isn’t a guns situation,” Donald Trump said today. “This is a mental health problem at the highest level.”
But this is indeed a guns situation — and the fact that it’s so easy for people with criminal backgrounds and mental health problems at the highest level to obtain them. Did Trump forget that in February he revoked a law that blocked people with severe mental issues from purchasing guns?
Instead of offering their thoughts and prayers, Trump and members of Congress could actually take action to save lives by banning assault rifles and by once again blocking anyone with a “mental health problem at the highest level” from purchasing guns.
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