On Sunday, November 5, just over a month after Stephen Paddock killed more than fifty people at a Las Vegas country music concert, and less than a week since Scott Ostrem gunned down three at a Thornton Walmart, a man named Devin Patrick Kelley murdered at least 26 parishioners at a church in tiny Sutherland Springs, Texas. We've subsequently learned that Kelley is a former member of the Air Force and a onetime resident of Colorado Springs who appears to have been fueled by strong feelings about religion, as were at least two killers who shook the community in the past.
The Paddock slaying prompted us to update our coverage of mass shootings. As we reported, approximately 1,864 such incidents — defined as involving at least three people being wounded or killed — took place in the United States between the July 20, 2012, Aurora theater attack and the horror in Vegas.
On October 2, when we published the aforementioned item, the Reddit website Guns Are Cool listed 338 mass shootings in 2017. On November 6, a mere 35 days later, the total stands at 377 — an average of more than one per day. And while the Texas church massacre is included, there's no listing for the Ostrem homicides, because Guns Are Cool uses a mass shooting definition that requires that at least four people be wounded or killed.
Authorities remain uncertain of Kelley's motivations as of now, but the early reporting about him has been filled with contradictions.
For instance, his LinkedIn page reveals that he spent a month "teaching children ages 4-6 at vocational bible schools helping their minds grow and prosper." However, numerous Facebook friends say he's also spent time ranting online about atheism. Such reports have inspired the right-wing blogosphere to declare that he was a member of the Antifa — a claim the fact-checking Snopes.com website brands false.
Less in doubt is information about Kelley's discharge from the Air Force because of an assault on his wife and child. Also firm is evidence that Kelley lived for a time at 3023 West Colorado Avenue, #60, in Colorado Springs — a mobile-home park seen in the screen capture at the top of this post, as well as this one:
Kelley's actions recall a previous assault on a house of worship in the town where he previously resided. On December 9, 2007, nearly ten years ago, Matthew Murray went on a shooting spree at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, killing four people.
A report released after the Murray matter included his handwritten letter to God, in which he described the Bible as a "stupid book," adding, "All the Christians I see or meet are miserable, angry, selfish, hypocritical, proud, power hungry, abusive, uncaring, confused, lustful, greedy, unsure of their doctrine and mean-spirited," he seethed. "I'm a much nicer person with integrity, I am more sincere and caring for people."
More victims would likely have died at New Life that day had it not have been for the quick actions of a volunteer security guard. Likewise, Kelley left the church in Texas after a neighbor with a rifle chased him off after he heard the mayhem taking place nearby.
The latest tragedy also recalls the 2015 bloodshed at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Anti-abortion zealot Robert Dear killed three and injured nine before being taken into custody.
Dear used an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle at the clinic. Kelley, for his part, is suspected of employing at AR-15-type weapon of the sort he showed off in an image from his now-deleted Facebook page, as seen above.
It's doubtful that many politicians in Texas, a state that loves its firearms, will make a serious effort to promote gun-control legislation there — and any momentum about the banning of so-called bump stocks in the wake of the Las Vegas killings has pretty much dissipated.
Given that, there's no reason we should believe that Kelley's actions will be the last of their type — or that no more mass shootings will have Colorado connections.
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