Q: Was the man who killed more than two dozen people in a rural Texas church trying to start a civil war as a member of antifa?
A: No. Law enforcement officials believe the mass shooting was motivated by a family dispute, and they are not investigating it as an act of terrorism.
Is Devin Patrick Kelley part of antifa as being spread on Facebook? Please verify.
Police are attributing the Nov. 5 mass shooting at a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, to a family dispute, and not to any kind of political movement or demonstration.
Several stories shared on Facebook have incorrectly claimed that the suspected shooter was a member of a group of loosely affiliated anti-fascist activists and was trying to start a civil war. Those stories, which Facebook users flagged as potentially false, have prompted several questions to FactCheck.org from readers.
Law enforcement officials are still piecing together what exactly drove 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley to use a Ruger AR-556 semiautomatic rifle to kill at least 26 people attending Sunday morning worship services at the First Baptist Church. But authorities have said that Kelley may have been targeting his estranged wife’s mother.
“One thing everybody wants to know is: why did this happen?” said Freeman Martin, regional director for the San Antonio office of the Texas Department of Public Safety, during a press briefing on Nov. 6. “It’s a senseless crime, but we can tell you that there was a domestic situation going on within this family.”
Martin explained that Kelley had recently sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, who regularly attends services at the church. She wasn’t present during the shooting, but her mother, Lula White, was among those murdered.
This wouldn’t be the first time that Kelley was violent toward his family. He was found guiltyof assault in 2012 after hitting his ex-wife and child “with a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm,” according to a general court-martial order. He served a one-year sentence, and got a bad-conduct discharge from the U.S. Air Force in 2014.
Martin asserted that the deadly shooting wasn’t motivated by race or religion, and Christopher Combs, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Antonio office, confirmedduring the same briefing that the bureau is not pursuing a terrorism investigation.
In fact, Kelley doesn’t appear to have been very politically engaged. He registered to vote in 2009, according to Cynthia Jaqua, the elections coordinator for Comal County, Texas, but he only voted once — during the 2016 general election. Texas voting records don’t indicate which party he supported.
Regardless, a widely circulated story on Facebook carried the headline: “Texas Church Shooter Was Antifa Member Who Vowed To Start Civil War.” It offers no real evidence to support its claims.
For example, the story, published by the unreliable yournewswire.com, includes a picturethat purports to show an image of Kelley with an antifa flag on his since disabled Facebook page. But the administrator of a group called Antifa United posted a response on Facebook debunking the image, which appears to have been manipulated.
“Let’s go ahead and lay this to rest right now,” the group’s Nov. 5 post starts. “The far-right (badly) put together a collage of images/mock up of a FB profile and are claiming the Texas shooter uploaded a picture of his antifa flag. How do we know its fake? That’s OUR picture. Pulled from our shop website when we had that flag design in stock. The person holding it in the picture is me. The admin of this page. In my office. You can only see a part of my torso but yeah… .”
The group’s Facebook administrator then posted the original photo of him, not Kelley, holding the flag.
The yournewswire.com story also includes a screenshot of what is supposed to be a text conversation between someone named “Brian” and another unidentified person who alleges that witnesses inside the church said that there were two shooters who “draped ANTIFA flag over pulpit,” “said this was a communist revolution,” and “pulled out copy of Das Kapital and demanded people quote specific sections.”
But no legitimate news organization has reported any witness account with those details. The police have been clear that Kelley is the only suspect, and they believe that he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was chased away from the church by an armed citizen.
The antifa connection also has been advanced by alt-right activists like Mike Cernovich, who tweeted on Nov. 5: “Photos of Texas shooter is consistent with profile of Antifa member. This is looking more and more like Antifa terror.”
However, there is no evidence to support the connection. At this time, officials believe that the shooting was motivated by a conflict between Kelley and one of his in-laws.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network.