The Lookingbill and Ward family, who lost three members in the Texas church massacre, is suing the San Antonio store where the shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, bought a Ruger AR-566 rifle that killed 26 congregation members. The massacre occurred at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 5, 2016. Joann Ward and her daughters, Emily Garcia and Brooke Ward, were among those killed. Ryland Ward, 5, was shot five times and is recovering in a hospital. The family is seeking $25 million in damages against the store.
The Lookingbills, Joann’s parents, and her husband, Chris, claimed the weapon should have never been sold because the shooter had listed his Colorado Springs address on the firearm record form. Instead, the purchase should have been transferred to his residence. “The Ruger should have never been placed in Kelley’s hands in Texas,” the lawsuit reads.
Academy confirmed Kelley purchased the weapons there and indicated its employees performed the required background check. Kelley had a 2012 court-martial conviction for assault and a child abuse charge. However, the U.S. Air Force said it failed to report these to the FBI database.
Multiple families of the victims have filed lawsuits against the Air Force for their failure to report. Claryce Holcombe and Joe Holcombe, who lost their son, Bryan, along with eight other family members in the shooting, represent one such family. They have said they are committed to making sure no one else has to suffer a preventable loss and are filing a federal claim form with U.S. Government to determine negligence.
“Under a 1996 law preventing spouse and child abusers from possessing firearms, the service’s Office of Special Investigations should have entered that conviction into an FBI database,” says the family’s attorney Rob Ammons. “The office didn’t, the Air Force has admitted. What’s more, the acts Kelley pleaded guilty to — breaking his baby stepson’s skull and hitting and kicking his then-wife — were punishable by imprisonment of more than a year. That qualifies them as felonies, which must be entered into the database.”
“I’m very hopeful for this claim, that this will be fixed and never happen again,” said Joe. “You can’t say that you don’t regret this happening, but we know where they are. They’re in a better place than here. It’s not going to be long until we’re going to be there, and we’ll be there a long time.”
A press release regarding the Holcombe’s case read: “When Kelley purchased the Ruger, he reported a Colorado Springs, Colorado address on his Firearms Transaction Record, Form 4473, a federal form. This should have disqualified Kelley from ever purchasing the assault rifle. Kelley’s identification indicated he was a resident of Colorado—not Texas. Meaning, he never should have been sold the very weapon he used in the Sutherland Springs shooting because it would have been illegal for Kelley to transport that gun to his residence. Instead, Academy should have transferred the firearm to Colorado, for Kelley, a Colorado resident, to retrieve.”
The Webster Law Firm is representing the Ward and Lookingbill families in the case against Academy and has confirmed they are suing the store for “negligent failure to follow existing gun control laws.”