Almost five years ago, a military court dropped gun charges against Airman First Class Devin Kelley – who gunned down 26 people in a Texas church Sunday – and instead gave him a light, one-year sentence for threatening his wife with a loaded gun and attacking her one-year-old child, raising questions about whether the military treats domestic violence cases with sufficient gravity.

His sentence was “very light,” said Don Christensen, the Air Force’s former top prosecutor whose office oversaw the Kelley case. “Very light, but sadly not unusually light. I’ve done a lot of shaken baby cases, and they almost always come in around a year of confinement.”

Beyond the relatively light sentence, the Air Force failed to put the conviction in the federal background-check database. That allowed Kelley, to legally buy the AR-15 he used on Sunday to kill 26 people and wound 20 at his mother-in-law’s Texas church.

The military court considered allegations that Kelley pointed loaded and unloaded guns at her. He admitted he struck his infant stepson with force that could have killed and choked and kicked his wife, documents show.


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