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Could The Air Force Have Done More To Stop Devin Kelley?

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The sun sets behind 26 crosses placed in a field before a vigil for the victims of the First Baptist Church shooting Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
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As Americans learn more about Texas shooter Devin Kelley, troubling patterns of abuse and violence are emerging. Among the most troubling is a 2012 assault during which he beat his wife and cracked his stepson’s skull.

While Kelley was stationed in New Mexico, the Air Force punished him with 12 months confinement, docked his ranking and gave him the duty title “prisoner” after the assault.

National security expert Juliette Kayyem said the Air Force’s response is a typical one in the aftermath of assault during military service.

“The military views itself as having a capacity to self-discipline as if they owned these men and therefore they can correct it, as if these men mostly do not have lives outside of the military or won’t eventually leave the military,” said Kayyem on BPR today.

Kayyem called Kelley’s story the most “extreme and tragic case” of serious discipline by the military not being enough to prevent violence after a person’s service has ended.

“This is absolute extreme violent behavior toward, not just a wife, but obviously a defenseless child,” she said. “What the military didn't seem to get [is that]... wife abuse is the canary in the coal mine.”

Kayyem called spousal abuse the “connective tissue” across instances of violence, “from terrorism to these mass shootings.”

Kelley was able to buy a gun because of a failure by the Air Force to enter his charge into a database.

“They just didn’t pass it on. It is just a complete error,” Kayyem said. “They were just in violation of their due diligence.”

National security expert Juliette Kayyem is the chief executive officer of ZEMCAR and a contributor to CNN and WGBH. To hear her interview in its entirety, click on the audio player above.

WGBH News coverage is a resource provided by member-supported public radio. We can’t do it without you.
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