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Air Force ordered to pay more than $230M in Texas church shooting

More than two dozen people were killed in the 2017 attack in Sutherland Springs when the gunman opened fire during a Sunday service.

SAN ANTONIO — Editor's note: The attached video is from Nov. 2021. 

The U.S. Air Force must pay more than $230 million in damages to survivors and victims’ families of a 2017 Texas church massacre for failing to flag a conviction that might have kept the gunman from legally buying the weapon used in the shooting, a federal judge ruled Monday.

More than two dozen people were killed when Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire during a Sunday service at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. Kelley, who died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after being shot and chased by two men who heard the gunfire at the church, had served in the Air Force before the attack.

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez had ruled in July that the Air Force was “60% liable” for the attack because it failed to submit Kelley’s assault conviction during his time in the Air Force to a national database.

Lawyers for survivors and relatives of those killed had asked for $418 million, while the Justice Department proposed $31.8 million.

The approximately 80 claimants include relatives of those killed and 21 survivors and their families. Authorities put the official death toll at 26 because one of the 25 people killed was pregnant. 

The church massacre is the deadliest mass shooting in the state's history.

A year after the shooting, Church leaders announced their multi-million dollar intentions to rebuild the worship site with the ultimate inclusion of a memorial tower dedicated to the victims of the 2017 shooting. 

"This is going to be a gathering place...[for] the broken and those who are healing," Pastor Frank Pomeroy said at the time. 

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