Fri | Nov 24, 2017

Texas church attack stemmed from domestic situation

Published:Tuesday | November 7, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife Sherri join a news conference near the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Sutherland Springs, Texas yesterday.

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP):

The gunman who opened fire in a small Texas church, killing 26 people during worship services, sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law before the attack, which appeared to stem from a domestic situation, authorities said yesterday.

Investigators have concluded that the deadliest mass shooting in state history was not racially or religiously motivated, Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said.

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

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

The gunman's family relationships were uncertain. The sheriff said the shooter's former in-laws sometimes attended services at the church but were not there on Sunday. Martin said the text messages were sent to the gunman's mother-in-law, who attended the church. It was unclear if they were referring to the same people.

Once the shooting started at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, 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 centre aisle during worship services. He turned around and continued shooting on his way out of the building, Tackitt said.

The attack claimed multiple members of some families and tore apart the close-knit town of 400 people.

"It's unbelievable to see children, men and women, laying there. Defenseless people," Tackitt said.

The dead ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years old. About 20 other people were wounded, 10 of whom were still hospitalised Monday in critical condition.