SPOKANE, Wash. - We're learning more details about the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history. Twenty-six people were killed including the gunman, 26 year-old Devin Kelley and Kelley's grandmother-in-law. Twenty more were injured. The victims range in age from 18 months to 77 years-old.
Investigators are saying the suspect's mother-in-law attended this church and there was an ongoing domestic dispute that included threatening texts from the suspect.
Domestic violence is a common pattern among mass killings. A recent study by Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit that advocates for gun control, shows more than 50% of mass shooters target an intimate partner or family member among victims.
Sargent Jordan Ferguson, a Spokane Police Officer who works on the Domestic Violence Unit said, “I cannot come up with the words to explain or rationalize it; they're broken and they get that mindset that they are going to hurt other people.”
While this shooting highlights domestic violence of unthinkable proportions, it plays out every day in our community and across the country,
Sgt. Ferguson says so far in 2017, Spokane Police have responded 3,200 domestic violence calls.
Each day, they work to keep victims safe and prevent an escalation in violence. On every single domestic violence call, an officer conducts a lethality assessment with the victim.
The twelve question assessment asks questions like:
Has he/she ever used a weapon against you or threatened you with a weapon?
Does he/she have a gun or can he/she get on easily?
Has he/she threatened to kill you or your children?
If they answer yes to any of the questions it could mean they are more likely to be killed by their partner and are immediately put in touch with an advocate.
The YWCA spoke with 400 victims in October alone.
Courtney Pettitt, a legal advocate with the YWCA explained, “every thing we do revolves around safety planning and making sure whatever the survivor does, is the safest option for them.”
Their work goes beyond the incident as they help them through the entire legal process.
Advocates share a new law stemming from the tragic shooting of Sheena Henderson at Deaconess Hospital in 2014 will protect victims for years to come.
Henderson was killed by her husband in a murder/suicide. Two months before the tragic shooting, police had confiscated her husband, Christopher Henderson's guns after she had told them he was suicidal. Hours before that fateful day, he was able to get them back.
Sheena's family had no idea he was able retrieve the guns and said had they known, they could have taken measures to protect her and get him the help he needed.
“If there is an incident where guns are taken for safe keeping family members have the option to be notified and step in and block the return of firearms,” said Sargent Jordan Ferguson.
Former partners of the Texas church shooter have been coming forward to say they experienced domestic violence in their relationships with him. Asking for help can be scary, but there are resources available.
If you or someone you know have been the victim of domestic violence, you are encouraged to call the 24-hour YWCA Domestic Violence Helpline at 509-326-CALL (2255).