Paula Rogo and Christina Coleman
Nov, 10, 2017

Devin Kelley, the man behind the recent Texas church massacre, became a fan of self-proclaimed white supremacist Dylann Roof after his 2015 killing of nine worshippers in a historic Black church in Charleston, S.C.

Kelley’s former Air Force supervisor told CNN that Kelley publicly spoke about how he admired Roof, who was sentenced to death in January.

“He would say he wished he had the nerve to do it, but all he would be able to do is kill animals,” said Jessika Edwards of Kelley. She described Kelley as someone who was obsessed with mass murders and that he bought dogs on Craigslist to use for target practice, according to the New York Daily News.

Edwards also warned her Air Force superiors that Kelley was dangerous and would “shoot the place up” if disciplined too harshly. And although she asked Kelley to reach out if he ever felt like he might hurt himself or others, she feels some responsibility for what happened. 

“It's upsetting because you feel like we failed,” Edwards told CNN. “But in reality we did everything we possibly could do.”

Kelley had a number of infractions against him including a domestic violence charge for beating his wife and stepson. He was sentenced to 12 months confinement in the Air Force’s brig.

It was this conviction that the Air Force failed to enter into the FBI database as required by the Pentagon. The mistake allowed Kelley to pass background checks and purchase the gun he used to kill 26 people in the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas this past weekend.

But with news that the latest in a stream of White mass shooters admired a man who shot up a church because he hated Black people, is it now permissible to call Kelley a terrorist? It depends on who you ask.

The definition of a terrorist is one who employs terror or terrorism as a political weapon. In Roof's case, his white nationalist views fueled his hate against Black people. Add that to Roof's decision to target a church — historically a location where white supremacists unleashed violence against Black folk from bombings to fires — and you've got yourself a textbook terrorist.

But both the government and media were reluctant to call Roof or Kelley a terrorist, no doubt due to the narrative America has driven about who can be a terrorist in this country. And according to the Huffington Post, domestic terrorism isn't a federal crime — a hole in the justice system that seemingly protects radical White men when they kill on a mass scale (and in many cases, because of hatred and racism).

So it's unlikely that Kelley will go down in the history books as a terrorist. Police are still investigating a motive behind the shooting. But seeing he admired someone who employed terror because of his hate for Black people in this country, it's clear that Kelley's shooting was indeed tied both to his troubled past and his politics.