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Texas church gunman described as controlling, quick to anger

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP) — The mother-in-law of the gunman who fatally shot more than two dozen worshippers at a Texas church said he was a controlling man who was easily offended, quick to anger and limited his wife’s contact with her family.

Michelle Shields told the San Antonio Express-News that Devin Patrick Kelley at one point texted her that he would “destroy your entire life” if she came to the hospital where her daughter was giving birth to the couple’s second child.

“I suggest you don’t test my resolve,” read one of several texts to Shields. In another, “You think this is a (expletive) game? It’s not.”

Six months later, on Nov. 5, authorities said Kelley opened fire at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, southeast of San Antonio. He killed 25 people at the church. Authorities put the toll at 26 because one of the victims was pregnant. Another 20 were injured. One of those killed was Shields’ mother.

Kelley, 26, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was shot and chased by two men who heard the gunfire at the church.

Investigators have said the attack appeared to stem from a domestic dispute involving Kelley and Shields, who sometimes attended services at the church but wasn’t there the day of the shooting. The investigation is ongoing.

Shields said she heeded Kelley’s warning and stayed away from the hospital where her daughter Danielle was giving birth.

“I wasn’t going to disobey. I didn’t want to disrespect because I don’t know where the anger would have gone from there,” Shields told the newspaper. “If he would have forbidden us from seeing her permanently, or where he would take my daughter. So we just didn’t go in.”

After the baby was born, Shields didn’t see Kelley or her daughter until a fall festival held at the church five days before the shooting.

A trail of violence seemed to follow Kelley for years.

In New Mexico, he was kicked out of the Air Force following a court-martial in 2012 for abusing his first wife and reportedly hitting her child hard enough to fracture his skull. In Colorado, he was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty after someone saw him punch a dog several times.

And in Texas, sheriff’s deputies were called to his parents’ house after his girlfriend told a friend he was abusing her.

Shields said over the course of their short marriage, Kelley made her daughter turn on the speakerphone so he could listen in when they spoke. If he didn’t like what was being said, he made her hang up.

“You had to walk on egg shells around him all the time because you’re afraid of saying something to upset him,” Shields said.

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Information from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.mysanantonio.com

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