In what will come as no surprise to animal advocates and those of us fighting for tougher abuse laws, the gunmen responsible for the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history had previously been charged with animal cruelty.
On Sunday, officials identified 26-year old Devin Patrick Kelley as the gunman who opened fire in a Sutherland Springs, Texas Baptist church, killing 26 people and wounding at least another 20.
A look into Kelley’s past revealed a propensity for violence and a rap sheet that included prior violent offenses including assaulting his spouse and child in 2012 and cruelty to animals in 2014.
It’s no secret that animal abuse is linked to human violence. According to the Humane Society, a number of studies have drawn links between the abuse of animals and violence against people. A 2001-2004 study by the Chicago Police Department “revealed a startling propensity for offenders charged with crimes against animals to commit other violent offenses toward human victims.”
On August 1, 2014, El Paso County, Colorado sheriff’s deputies charged Kelley with misdemeanor animal cruelty after several witnesses at a campground reported seeing him mishandling and punching his dog.
Witnesses described to police that they saw a young Husky running loose when a heavyset man, later identified as Kelley, grabbed the dog, threw him to the ground, and jumped on top of him, pinning him down with his knees. Kelley then punched the Husky 4 or 5 times to the face and neck with closed fists before grabbing him by the neck and dragging him away while the dog yelped and whined.
When police arrived, they discovered the dog malnourished and underweight. Although he denied the accusations against him, his dog was seized and sent to the Veterinary Specialty Center for care. Kelley was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty.
The cruelty to animals charge was eventually dismissed in March 2016.
With a known link between animal cruelty and violent offenses against humans, should investigating and prosecuting animal offenses be more of a priority? Could stopping animal abuse, or, at least, prosecuting offenders with tougher laws and punishment, curb violent offenses against humans? Weigh in with a comment below!