28 dead at Baptist church near San Antonio in worst shooting in Texas history
At least 28 people died Sunday after a gunman opened fire at a Baptist church in a small town southeast of San Antonio.The gunman, who has been identified as 26-year-old Devin Kelley, began shooting from spots outside Sutherland Springs' First Baptist Church before he entered the building to continue gunning down the congregation at the 11 a.m. service.
Kelley had been spotted about 11:20 a.m. at a gas station on the other side of U.S. Highway 87 before he drove up to the church about 35 miles from San Antonio.
Dressed in a ballistic vest and other tactical gear, Kelley was armed with a Ruger assault-style rifle, authorities said. His attack became Texas' worst mass shooting since 23 people were murdered and 27 more were wounded at a Killeen Luby's in 1991.
The gunman went to the right side of the church and continued to fire, then went inside and kept shooting, Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said.
As he left the church, a town resident grabbed his own rifle and engaged the shooter, who then dropped his rifle and fled. The resident, who was not injured, pursued him, Martin said.
The shooter was found dead in his vehicle, which had crashed near the Wilson and Guadalupe county lines.
It’s unclear whether he killed himself or was mortally wounded by the resident who engaged him, Martin said.
Of those killed, 23 were dead inside the church, two were found dead outside, and one person died at a hospital, Martin said.
About 20 people were wounded and transported to area hospitals with injuries that range from minor to severe, he said.
The ages of the victims range from 5 to 72.
Neighbors say about 50 people usually attend services at the church, where Sunday's morning worship was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Some people escaped the church without injuries, though it's unclear how many.
The victims' names have not yet been released, and Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said authorities are still working to process crime scene and identify those killed.
Among those killed was the 14-year-old daughter of the church's pastor.
Pastor Frank Pomeroy told ABC News his daughter Annabelle "was one very beautiful special child." While he is usually at the church on Sundays, he was in Oklahoma the morning the shooting happened.
A motive has not been released.
A woman prays with a man after a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman) A woman prays with a man after a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman)
Although authorities have not publicly confirmed Kelley was the gunman, he has been widely identified by sources, including officials who spoke to The Associated Press.
The Pentagon confirmed the suspected shooter was an airman in the Air Force "at one point," but did not provide additional details.
An Air Force spokeswoman said records confirm Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until he left the military.
He had been dishonorably discharged after a court martial, according to CBS News.
Department of Defense records show a man by the same name served in the Air Force from January 2010 to May 2014. The department did not answer questions about whether a dishonorable discharge from the military would prevent someone from getting a DPS-issued private security license.
"The investigation is ongoing. We are unable to confirm any additional information about the shooting suspect at this time," Tom Vinger, DPS spokesman said in an email.
A federal official said Kelley didn’t appear to be linked to an organized terrorist group. The official said investigators are looking at social media posts Kelley may have made in the days before Sunday's attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon.
Multiple Deaths In Texas Church Shooting
Pastors of churches around Sutherland Springs, Texas described the moments after they were notified there ha...
Authorities were at a home Sunday night in New Braunfels, north of San Antonio, that has been identified as Kelley's.
People who live near the home said they had heard intense gunfire from that direction in recent days.
State troopers and a Comal County Sheriff's Office vehicle blocked the gate that opens up to the large family property in a rural part of the city.
Several neighbors said that in recent weeks someone at the residence had been leaving expensive items including couches, recliners and bikes at the curb.
Mark Morovitz, 41, lives across the road from the Kelleys and used to do work for Micky Kelley, Devin Kelley's father, until the two had a falling out two years ago. He said he had met Devin Kelley but didn't know him well.
He said his neighbors kept mostly to themselves but he and his family often heard gunfire, including what they though were shot guns and rapid fire rifles, echoing from the large swath of property at night.
"That wouldn't have ever struck me as suspicious," Morovitz said. "Until now."
Law enforcement officials works at the scene of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman)
Sunday's violence now surpasses the Oct. 16, 1991, shooting at a Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen as the deadliest in state history.
In that shooting, a 35-year-old man crashed his truck through a window at the restaurant and opened fire, killing 23 people and wounding 20 more before retreating to a restroom and killing himself.
Gov. Greg Abbott said the tragedy is "worsened" by the fact that it occurred in a church.
"As a state we are dealing with the largest mass shooting in our states' history," he said. "There are so many families that have lost family members, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters."
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, whose district includes the rural community of about 400 people, called the shooting "a horrific tragedy."
He said the town is "one of those unique communities where everyone knows everyone else and supports each other," and recalled fundraisers at the local fire department "where basically everyone in the entire area would come out to support those volunteers.
"The people of Sutherland Springs are as fine an example of Texans and Americans as you will find anywhere in the country," Cuellar said.
President Donald Trump called the deadly shooting an "act of evil." He said he is monitoring the situation from Japan on a trip to five Asian countries.
"Our hearts are broken but in dark times — and these are dark times — such as these, Americans do what they do best," he said.
Trump said Americans will pull together to help those suffering.