Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Texas church massacre - Gunman kills at least 26 as they worship

Published:Monday | November 6, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Carrie Matula embraces a woman after the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, yesterday. Matula said she heard the shooting from the gas station where she works a block away.
Law enforcement officials work the scene of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, yesterday.
First responders work at the rear of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in response to a fatal shooting yesterday in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Law enforcement officers gather in front of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs after a fatal shooting.
Law enforcement officials work at the scene of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas yesterday.
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SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP):

A man opened fire inside a church in a small South Texas community yesterday, killing at least 26 people and wounding at least 10 others before being killed or killing himself, authorities said.

A law-enforcement official said at a late-evening press conference that the investigation was in its early stages and the figures could change. The victims ranged from five to 72 years old.

The gunman, who has been identified as 26-year-old Devin Kelley, allegedly fled in a vehicle after the attack and was killed, either by a self-inflicted wound or during a confrontation.

Federal law enforcement swarmed the small community 30 miles southeast of San Antonio after the attack to offer assistance, including Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms investigators and members of the FBI's evidence-collection team.

The wounded were taken to hospitals. Video on KSAT television showed first responders taking a stretcher from the church to a waiting AirLife helicopter. Some victims were taken by medical helicopter to the Brooke Army Medical Center, the station said.

 

An evil act, says Texas governor

 

Megan Posey, a spokeswoman for Connally Memorial Medical Center, which is in Floresville, Texas, and about 10 miles from the church, said "multiple" victims were being treated for gunshot wounds. She declined to give a specific number but said it was less than a dozen.

A woman who lives about 10 minutes away from Sutherland Springs in Floresville and was monitoring the chaos on a police scanner and in Facebook community groups, said that everyone knows everyone in the sparsely populated county.

"This is horrific for our tiny little tight-knit town," said Alena Berlanga.

"Everybody's going to be affected and everybody knows someone who's affected."

United States President Donald Trump tweeted from Japan, where he is on an Asian trip, that he was monitoring the situation following the shooting. Texas Governor Greg Abbott called the shooting an "evil act" and promised "more details" from the state's Department of Public Safety.

Sutherland Springs is in a rural corner of South Texas where communities are small and tight-knit. The area is known for its annual peanut festival in nearby Floresville, which was most recently held last month.

"We're shocked. Shocked and dismayed," said state Senator Judith Zaffirini, a Laredo Democrat whose district includes Sutherland Springs.

 

SO SHOCKING

 

"It's especially shocking when it's such a small, serene area. These rural areas, they are so beautiful and so loving."

Zaffirini said she had called several county and local officials but not been able to get through and didn't have any firm details.

The church is a white, wood-framed building with a double-door at the entrance and a Texas flag on a pole at the front area, according to its website, which was down shortly after the shooting. The website says the church schedule was for a fellowship breakfast on Sunday mornings, followed by Sunday school. A morning worship service was scheduled for 11 a.m. The first news reports of the shooting were between noon and 12:30 p.m.

The church has posted videos of its Sunday services on a YouTube channel, raising the possibility that the shooting was captured on video.

In the most recent service, posted October 29, Pastor Frank Pomeroy began by speaking in front of a stage with two guitarists and a singer. A few children can be seen moving around and climbing on to the pews. Most people, including Pomeroy, were in jeans.

Pomeroy parked a motorcycle in front of his lectern and used it as a metaphor in his sermon for having faith in forces that can't be seen, whether it was gravity or God.

"I don't look at the moment, I look at where I'm going and look at what's out there ahead of me," Pomeroy said. "I'm choosing to trust in the centripetal forces and the things of God He's put around me."