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Texas church gunman sent hostile text messages before attack
Assault conviction not entered into weapons database

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas — The gunman who killed 26 people at a small-town Texas church had a history of domestic violence and sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, a member of First Baptist, before the attack in which he fired at least 450 rounds at helpless worshippers, authorities said Monday.

A day after the deadliest mass shooting in state history, the military acknowledged that it did not submit the shooter's criminal history to the FBI, as required by the Pentagon. If his past offenses had been properly shared, they would have prevented him from buying a gun.

Investigators also revealed that sheriff's deputies had responded to a domestic violence call in 2014 at Devin Patrick Kelley's home involving a girlfriend who became his second wife. Later that year, he was formally ousted from the Air Force for a 2012 assault on his ex-wife in which he choked her and struck her son hard enough to fracture his skull.

In the tiny town of Sutherland Springs, population 400, grieving townspeople were reeling from their losses. The dead ranged from 18 months to 77 years old and included multiple members of some families.

"Our church was not comprised of members or parishioners. We were a very close family," said the pastor's wife Sherri Pomeroy, who, like her husband, was out of town when the attack happened. "Now most of our church family is gone."

The couple's 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle Pomeroy, was among those killed.

Kelley's mother-in-law sometimes attended services there, but the sheriff said she was not at church Sunday.

The massacre appeared to stem from a domestic situation and was not racially or religiously motivated, Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said. He did not elaborate.

Based on evidence at the scene, investigators believe Kelley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was chased by bystanders, one of whom was armed, and crashed his car.

The 26-year-old shooter also used his cellphone to tell his father he had been shot and did not think he would survive, authorities said.

While in the military, Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his 2014 discharge, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.

He was discharged for the assault involving his previous wife and her child and had served a year of confinement after a court-martial. Under Pentagon rules, information about convictions of military personnel for crimes such as assault should be submitted to the FBI's Criminal Justice Investigation Services Division.

Stefanek said the service is launching a review of its handling of the case and taking a comprehensive look at its databases to ensure other cases have been reported correctly.

"This was a very — based on preliminary reports — a very deranged individual. A lot of problems over a long period of time," President Donald Trump said when asked about the shooting as he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a joint news conference.

Once the shooting started, there was probably "no way" for congregants to escape, Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr. said.

The gunman, dressed in black tactical gear, fired an assault rifle as he walked down the center aisle during worship services. He turned around and continued shooting on his way out of the building, Tackitt said.

About 20 other people were wounded. Ten of them still were hospitalized Monday in critical condition.

Investigators collected hundreds of shell casings from the church, along with 15 empty magazines that held 30 rounds each.

Kelley lived in New Braunfels, about 35 miles north of the church, authorities said. Investigators were reviewing social media posts he made in the days before the attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon.

On Sunday, the attacker pulled into a gas station across from the church, about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio. He crossed the street and started firing the rifle at the church, then continued firing after entering the white wood-frame building, Martin said.

As he left, the shooter was confronted by an armed resident who had grabbed his own rifle and exchanged fire with Kelley.

The armed man who confronted Kelley had help from another local resident, Johnnie Langendorff, who said he was driving past the church as the shooting happened. The armed man asked to get in Langendorff's truck, and the pair followed as the gunman drove away.

"He jumped in my truck and said, 'He just shot up the church. We need to go get him.' And I said 'Let's go,'" Langendorff said.

The pursuit reached speeds up to 90 mph. The gunman eventually lost control of his vehicle and crashed. The armed man walked up to the vehicle with his gun drawn, and the attacker did not move. Police arrived about five minutes later, Langendorff said.

The assailant was dead in his vehicle. He had three gunshot wounds — two from where the armed man hit him in the leg and the torso and the third self-inflicted wound to the head, authorities said.

"There was no thinking about it. There was just doing. That was the key to all this. Act now. Ask questions later," he said.

Three weapons were recovered. A Ruger AR-556 rifle was found at the church, and two handguns were recovered from the gunman's vehicle, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The assailant did not have a license to carry a concealed handgun, Martin said.



Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

A dusting of snow covers the top of the San Francisco Peaks Monday morning. The National Weather Service says warmer weather will return by Wednesday, with highs 5 to 10 degrees above normal through the rest of the week.

State government joins Flagstaff, other cities in giving convicted job applicants a break

PHOENIX -- Arizona is joining more than two dozen other states to give convicted felons a foot in the door for employment.

In an executive order Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey directed state personnel officials to "ban the box,'' eliminating any questions on initial job applications about whether a person has a criminal record.

None of that keeps the question from coming up. But the concept, according to the governor, is to ensure that people are not eliminated from even being considered.

"This is to allow people that have paid their debt to society, who have served their time, to have some hope of a job or a career or an opportunity,'' Ducey said.

The idea is not new. The National Employment Law Project reports 29 states already have similar laws or policies in place.

NELP also says nine states have eliminated the question for private employers, something the governor's executive order does not do.

In May, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution that removed the question about prior convictions or guilty pleas from applications for county jobs.

In September, the city of Flagstaff followed suit by removing the question “Have you ever been convicted of or pled guilty to an offense as an adult, including DUI and reckless driving offenses (excluding minor traffic violations)?" from its employment applications, following direction from the city council to remove questions about prior convictions.

The county’s human resources department was tasked with determining which positions will still require background checks. The city will continue to conduct pre-employment background checks, which include criminal history.

Several other Arizona cities including Tucson, Tempe and Phoenix also have similar policies.

But Ducey, who has pushed for programs for years to prevent recidivism, has put something else into the new plan: Money for transportation.

Under a deal with Uber, the ride-sharing company will put up $5,000 to help people get to their job sites if public transit is not available, whether because of geography or simply the time of day. That is contingent on a dollar-for-dollar match from the state which the governor's office said will be provided out of existing funds within the Department of Corrections.

Ducey said that change in applications for jobs in state government is designed to ensure at least some of these inmates get a chance to make their case to state agencies that they're good employment prospects.

The governor said that, at some point, the question of an applicant's criminal record will become part of the job interview and screening. And he said it will be at that point when it is determined if the crime is relevant.

"We're going to continue to protect public safety,'' Ducey said. "We're going to make sure to the best of our ability we're hiring the right people and putting them in the right places.''

So, for example, none of this will affect the hiring process for the state Department of Public Safety.

But the governor said it's important to provide some options for former inmates to make a living -- options other than returning to a life of crime.

"What can we do when we're having thousands of people that are coming out of our state prisons if there's not an opportunity provided to them,'' he said. "They don't have an opportunity to do anything except make a bad decision.''

Nothing in the order affects -- or could affect -- private companies.

"I don't set policy for private employers,'' the governor said. "We're trying to lead the way in terms of examples from state government.''

Still, Ducey conceded he understands their reticence.

"I think this is something that people may not understand, people like myself that are 'law-and-order' individuals and want to see a safe community,'' he explained. "I'm hopeful that some other private sector employers will follow suit.''

Ducey said this is similar to a policy he enacted earlier this year that allows state employees at many agencies to bring their newborns to work "so they didn't have to make a decision between career and family, they could continue to have that bond.'' The governor said he has heard that some private companies are now doing the same thing.

The announcement about the application process comes as the state trotted out details for placing a new "re-entry center'' for released inmates who have committed some violation of their release conditions and otherwise would wind up back in prison.

Under Arizona law, offenders are released after serving 85 percent of their sentence. But they remain under "community supervision'' for the balance of their term.

Sometimes, a former inmate in that category fails a drug test or some other condition of release but has not committed any new crimes.

Before the re-entry center, the Department of Corrections could either ignore the violation or put the person back behind bars. Under the latter option, the person would lose a job and housing.

The centers, first proposed by Ducey in 2016, provide a place for the former inmate to spend a few weekends locked up while also getting drug counseling. But they are released during the week to keep their jobs.

An existing facility in North Phoenix -- one that provoked opposition from neighbors who were not notified first -- will be closed. Aides to the governor also said the central location is closer to employers.

And existing pre-release employment centers operated in several prisons will also be consolidated there.

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Tusayan weighing effects of taller buildings near Grand Canyon
Town weighing effects of taller buildings near Grand Canyon

TUSAYAN (AP) — Seconds after rounding the highway curve on the final stretch to the Grand Canyon's South Rim entrance, the first sign appears: Yes on 400. Housing. Jobs. Independence.

The ballot measure being decided Tuesday is the latest push in a decadeslong effort to build new hotels, boutique shops and commercial centers in Tusayan, a tiny town that millions of people pass through on the way to the Grand Canyon each year.

A simple majority of 262 registered voters will decide the all mail-in election that could have huge consequences for the landscape and skyline surrounding one of the most-visited national parks in the country. An Italian real estate developer is a major landowner in town and wants to change the law to raise the maximum building height to 65 feet, clearing the way for a hotel development and other businesses.

Felicia Fonseca 

In this Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 photo, a sign urging voters to approve a building height increase sits in an employee housing complex in Tusayan, Ariz. The town is voting on a proposal to increase building heights that would pave the way for development at an RV park. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

Supporters say the ordinance is a critical step to bolster tourism and jobs in Tusayan by making it more of a destination than a quick stop on the way to the natural wonder.

"It's going to allow us to capture the visitor for longer than six hours," Vice Mayor Becky Wirth said. "We would like them to stay more than a night."

Opponent Clarinda Vail says she worries about the effect on water, traffic to the Grand Canyon and a skyline whose buildings could approach treetops and be visible from the North Rim.

Felicia Fonseca 

Andy Jacobs, a spokesman for Stilo Development Group USA, talks about the company's plans in Tusayan, Ariz. on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. Residents are voting on a ballot measure to increase building heights in the small town outside the Grand Canyon's South Rim entrance.(AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

"Love your Legacy," one of her campaign signs read, pointing to the area's history as a promoter — not a detractor — of the canyon, she says.

Vail's family settled Tusayan in the 1930s as cattle ranchers. Her family made a deal with Arizona in the 1950s to run Highway 64 through their property as more visitors traveled to the Grand Canyon. Their Red Feather Lodge still stands along the roadway, and the family owns other businesses and leases property.

Another major landowner, Elling Halvorson, counts a hotel and restaurant among his business ventures but is more widely known for air tours over the Grand Canyon. Among his business partners is Italy-based Stilo Development Group USA, and they are leading the effort to raise building heights.

Felicia Fonseca 

In this Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 photo, a sign urging voters to approve a building height increase sits in an employee housing complex in Tusayan, Ariz. The town is voting on a proposal to increase building heights that would pave the way for development at an RV park. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

They pushed for the vote after the U.S. Forest Service rejected access for development on Stilo's two large properties in town. No longer able to build out, Halvorson and Stilo made a move to build up at an existing RV park they own.

The two were not always on the same side.

Halvorson opposed a Stilo project in the 1990s called Canyon Forest Village, a partnership with the Grand Canyon that included a land swap with the Forest Service. It would have meant most visitors would travel into the park via light rail, but voters overturned the project.

When the RV park became available in the early 2000s, Stilo and Halvorson partnered to buy the land, Stilo spokesman Andy Jacobs said.

Incorporating the community as a town in 2010 became the way to move development on Stilo's other properties forward. Tusayan later approved annexation and rezoning agreements, but none of it came without a fight. There were lawsuits, allegations of voter fraud and intimidation, costly campaigns and bitterness among residents.

Felicia Fonseca 

This photo taken Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 urges people to vote against a building height increases in Tusayan, Arizona. A vote in favor would pave the way for development at an RV park in town. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

"Not a lot of developers would have taken the beating they did with Canyon Forest Village and come back 20 years later," Jacobs said. "They're committed to figuring this out one way or another."

In the short time Tusayan has existed as a town, the seats on the Town Council mostly have been held by Halvorson employees.

Some residents declined to talk about the building height increase, for fear of their jobs.

Beltsasar Gomez, breaking down Halloween decorations after a trick-or-treat event last week, quickly summed up his support: "Growth, opportunity. It's what they say. Homes, more employment, housing. This place has been too small for many years."

Ann Wren, who was part of the committee that approved current building heights, said anything higher would be detrimental to the Grand Canyon.

"They want the height increase because they want density," says Wren, a hotel owner. "Why change the rules now for the good of one organization, one party?"

Felicia Fonseca 

In this Tuesday, oct. 31, 2017 photo, Clarinda Vail stands outside the lodge her family owns in Tusayan, Ariz.. Vail opposes a ballot measure to increase building heights in the small town outside the Grand Canyon's South Rim entrance. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

And still, the promise of homeownership remains unfulfilled in a town where land mostly is in private hands and employees live in company housing, except for a few mobile homes in the RV park. The development there would include 100 apartments available for rent, Jacobs said.

Meanwhile, the town is working on an off-grid housing development on property Stilo gave to Tusayan in exchange for rezoning and annexing its properties. Tusayan Mayor Craig Sanderson said he understands the prospect for homeownership is frustrating.

All this was new to Christy and Gary Greenwald, who have been traveling to national parks across the country since August. The Georgia couple snapped a picture in front of the sandstone sign for Grand Canyon National Park.

"I'd hate to see it turned into a mini-metropolis, but 65 feet isn't so bad," Christy Greenwald said.

Gary Greenwald drew from his work with architects in pinning the area as a horizontal expanse of land, unlike Yellowstone National Park where geysers and mountains direct the eye up. He said taller buildings would destroy the views here.

"I would say exceptionally unattractive in front of a national park," he said.

Josh Biggs 

Alicia Shay

Goddard pushing initiative to require campaign 'dark money' transparency

PHOENIX -- A former state attorney general wants Arizonans to vote to constitutionally ban anonymous donations from political campaigns.

Terry Goddard is crafting a "right to know'' initiative that would guarantee in the state constitution that voters are entitled to know who is trying to sway their votes on who to elect for everything from statewide offices to school board members. The measure which Goddard hopes to put to voters a year from now, also would impose the same requirements on those pushing future ballot measures.

Campaign consultant Bob Grossfeld said the effort starts with redefining for voters exactly what it is they are trying to curb. And that comes down to using new terminology.

"We're done with this whole 'dark money' nonsense,'' Grossfeld said, the term that has become synonymous in political rhetoric with dollars coming from unknown sources. But he said that's technically neither a legal term nor even one with an actual formal definition.

"We look at this as 'dirty money,' '' he said.

"This is no different than criminal syndicates who are laundering money,'' Grossfeld said. "It's for the same purposes: to hide the people behind it.''

And he rejected claims by some interests who fought similar measures in the past that such disclosure mandates would impact the free speech rights of individuals.

"Folks can get out there,'' Grossfeld said.

"They can say whatever they want, run commercials, run ads, whatever, even if they're unsavory,'' he continued."What this is doing is establishing in the Arizona Constitution our right to know who's paying for it."

Goddard, a Democrat who was elected as attorney general in 2002 and won a second term four years later, already formed a campaign committee this past week which allows him to begin raising money for the task of getting the measure on the 2018 ballot.

Grossfeld said the final language is still being tweaked. But he said the bottom line is designed to expose anyone who puts at least $10,000 into any campaign, whether for public office or a ballot measure.

Arizona law already requires anyone who spends money to influence a campaign to file reports.

But there's an exception: Groups that are organized under the Internal Revenue Code as "social welfare'' organizations contend they are not required to disclose their donors. So the only thing the public knows is that some group, often with a name that may have no link to the sponsors, has dumped cash into a campaign.

That has become an increasing problem for voters interested in finding out who is behind commercials, mailers and other campaign materials.

In the 2014 gubernatorial race, for example, the $5 million spent on the general election directly by Republican Doug Ducey and Democrat Fed DuVal was eclipsed by the $9 million others spent trying to influence the race. Most of that cash flowed in Ducey's benefit.

And two Republicans got elected to the Arizona Corporation Commission with more than $3 million spent by outside groups. Arizona Public Service, the state's largest utility that is regulated by the commission, has consistently refused to confirm or deny whether it was the source of any of that cash.

A related issue goes to what might be called "chain'' donations, where individual A gives money to organization B, which then funnels it to a third organization that does the ultimate spending on the race.

Grossfeld said the language of the initiative would force disclosure of all major sources of funding. And he said it is worded in a way so that it pierces the multi-step donations, requiring that the ultimate sources of the dollars be disclosed, not only in reports filed with the Secretary of State's Office but also in advertising, mailers and other campaign materials.

"It creates a right for citizens, in the constitution,'' Grossfeld said. "And that's a right to know, specifically, the source of campaign funds.''

None of this would help voters when choosing presidential or congressional candidates. Grossfeld said states have no say over federal campaign finance laws.

This isn't the first time Goddard has attempted to force public disclosure.

In 2016 he paired with former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson who was pushing his own ballot measure for open primaries. But both collapsed when funding ran out.

Grossfeld said several things are different this time.

The first is that the campaign spending measure against what he calls "dirty money'' will stand on its own and not be linked to other ballot issues.

And Grossfeld said he and Goddard believe they can gather the 225,963 valid signatures needed by July 5 to qualify for the ballot solely with volunteers, minimizing the need for up-front cash.

He said they have the backing of members of Save Our Schools Arizona, the group that managed to gather enough signatures to force a referendum on legislation to vastly expand the system of vouchers that allows parents to use public dollars to send their children to private and parochial schools.

Spokeswoman Dawn Penich-Thacker said her organization has not taken an official position. But she confirmed that key members of the group are working on the issue because they have common interests.

More to the point, they have a common foe, if you will: the Koch brothers.

Americans for Prosperity, a group financed by the billionaires, already is involved in a lawsuit designed to keep the referendum from ever making the ballot.

Separately, the brothers are financing the Libre Initiative which is is targeting Hispanic households nationwide in an effort to get support for vouchers -- and oppose ballot proposals like Save Our Schools -- with what Penich-Thacker contends is misinformation about who benefits from funneling state dollars into private schools.

Any change, however, would provide only limited help to groups like hers. Under current laws, the only information that voters would get if and when the referendum is on the ballot next year is that the Libre Initiative put a certain number of dollars into defeating it, with no requirement to tell voters which individuals and groups provided financing, and in what amounts.

Goddard's political career also includes six years as mayor of Phoenix in the 1980s and two unsuccessful bids for governor, losing to Republicans Fife Symington in 1990 and Jan Brewer two decades later.