The gunman in a mass shooting at a Texas church had been arrested for animal cruelty in Colorado in 2014.
An El Paso County Sheriff’s Office affidavit says deputies arrested Devin Patrick Kelley at a Colorado Springs RV park where he lived.
One neighbor told a deputy that Kelley chased the young Husky, jumped on top of it and struck the dog with a closed fist several times. Another neighbor says Kelley grabbed the dog, threw it into the air, then onto the ground and dragged it to his camper.
Kelley initially refused to leave the camper to speak with officers in the Aug. 1, 2014 incident. He denied abusing the dog.
Officers arrested Kelley for misdemeanor animal cruelty and took the Husky to a veterinary center after finding the dog was undernourished.
At the time, Kelley claimed that he was trying to restrain the dog from acting aggressively. Kelley received a deferred probationary sentence, paid fines totaling $448.50, and the charges were dismissed.
Kelley also has a history of spousal and child abuse, which is why he was discharged from the Air Force. He pleaded guilty to intentionally fracturing a toddler’s skull.
Troubled children are much more likely to mistreat animals. While less than 5% of U. S. children are estimated to have intentionally hurt an animal, for children at mental health clinics, animal cruelty rates range from 10 to 25%, according to an article in Psychology Today.
Prof. Frank Ascione at the University of Denver and Prof. Arnold Arluke at Northeastern University estimate that one in four children and adolescents with conduct disorder have abused animals. Children who have been physically abused and exposed to domestic violence are at even higher risk. In an assessment of 1433 children ages 6 to 12, Ascione found that among abused children, 60% had abused animals.
Animal abuse is often the first sign of serious disturbance among adolescent and adult killers. On Oct. 1, 1997, Luke Woodham, a sophomore at Pearl High School, in a suburb of Jackson, MI, stabbed his mother to death and then opened fire on classmates with a hunting rifle, killing two girls and wounding seven other students. Investigators later found Woodham’s account of his torture and killing of his pet dog Sparkle, which the boy described as his “first kill.” On May 21, 1998, fifteen year old Kip Kinkel shot his parents to death before emptying three guns at his classmates in Thurston High School, Springfield, OR, leaving one dead and 26 injured. Kip had often bragged to others at school about how he tortured animals. Jeffrey Dahmer, Albert DeSalvo (the “Boston strangler”), David Berkowitz (the “Son of Sam”) and Carroll Edward Cole, a serial killer accused of 35 deaths, all recounted animal torture as their first violent act. When counselors at several federal penitentiaries evaluated inmates for levels of aggression, 70% of the most violent prisoners had serious and repeated animal abuse in their childhood histories, as compared to 6% of nonaggressive prisoners in the same facilities.
The article also came up with some educational tips. While acknowledging that predicting the next mass shooter is complex and imprecise. No single factor, including animal abuse, is definitive.
We should be appropriately cautious about retrospective accounts of childhood misdeeds that can’t be independently verified. Nevertheless, there is enough evidence to consider cruelty toward animals a red flag warning that a child or adolescent needs immediate help,” the magazine wrote.
Here are some practical steps communities around the country are already taking:
Improving diagnosis. Mental health professionals seldom ask routinely about animal abuse. Increasing awareness of the need to do so can pick up early indications of the problem.
Cross reporting. Since animal abuse and domestic violence are linked, child protective services and animal welfare groups are training together to recognize and report both human and animal victims.
Ensuring treatment. Several states are mandating evaluation and counseling for individuals convicted of animal abuse.
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Photo Caption: Devin P. Kelley while a freshman at New Braunfels High School in New Braunfels, Texas, in 2006.
h/t: Poppel Yearbook Library