- A mass shooting occurred Sunday at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
- At least 26 people were killed in the shooting.
- The suspect was “taken down” after a brief chase, an official said.
At least 26 people were killed and several others were injured on Sunday when a man walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and started shooting, authorities said.
Officials said that the shooter, later identified as Devin Patrick Kelley of New Braunfels, Texas, had been killed after a brief chase into neighbouring Guadalupe County. It wasn’t immediately known whether Kelley killed himself or if he was shot by a local resident who had pursued the suspect.
First responders quickly converged on the church in Sutherland Springs, a small town east of San Antonio with a population under 1,000. The Dallas Morning News reported that at least six helicopters evacuated victims to hospitals. At least four children were among the victims, a hospital spokesman told NBC News.
“While the details of this horrific act are still under investigation, Cecilia and I want to send our sincerest thoughts and prayers to all those who have been affected by this evil act,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. “I want to thank law enforcement for their response and ask that all Texans pray for the Sutherland Springs community during this time of mourning and loss.”
Victims ranged from ages 5 to 72
First Baptist Church Pastor Frank Pomeroy told ABC News that his 14-year-old daughter was among the dead, and said she “was one very beautiful, special child.” Officials said the victims ranged in age from 5 to 72.
According to Freeman Martin, the regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, the suspect parked his car at a gas station across the street from the church around 11:20 a.m. He then crossed the street, exited his car and began shooting at the church from the outside with a Ruger assault rifle. He continued shooting as he moved to the right side of the church, eventually entering the building.
One witness told CBS News that she heard about 20 gunshots when the shooter opened fire. According to the church’s website, Sunday services start at 11 a.m.
A nearby rifle-wielding resident ‘engaged’ the suspect
Once the suspect exited the church, Martin said he was “engaged” by a rifle-wielding resident who lives next door to the church. At that point, the gunman dropped his weapon and sped away in his vehicle while the resident followed.
After a brief chase, deputies found the suspect fatally shot in his car off the side of the road. Authorities said they don’t know if the suspect committed suicide or was killed by the resident who pursued him. The suspect was wearing all black “tactical-type gear” and a bulletproof vest, Freeman said.
“This act of evil occurred as the victims and their families were in their place of sacred worship,” President Donald Trump said in a statement. “We cannot put into words the pain and grief we all feel and we cannot begin to imagine the suffering of those who lost the ones they love.”
Suspect was dishonorably discharged from the Air Force
Kelley, 26, was a former airman in the US Air Force, an Air Force spokeswoman told The Associated Press. He served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 to 2014, when he was dishonorably discharged and court martialed for an unknown reason.
A law enforcement expert told CNN that the FBI is likely involved to investigate the case as a possible hate crime since it occurred at a church. The suspect’s motive was unknown, officials said.
A woman who lives about 10 minutes away from Sutherland Springs in Floresville said that everyone knows everyone in the sparsely populated county.
“This is horrific for our tiny little tight-knit town,” Alena Berlanga told the AP. “Everybody’s going to be affected and everybody knows someone who’s affected.”
Sunday’s mass shooting fell on the eighth anniversary of the mass shooting at Fort Hood near Killeen, Texas, which left 13 people dead and more than 30 injured in 2009. Another shooting at the military base in 2014 left three people dead, excluding the gunman.
Witness tells CBS News she heard about 20 shots when gunfire reportedly erupted at church in Sutherland Springs, TX https://t.co/9tZPX0Mduz pic.twitter.com/2kpwIlhlaE
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 5, 2017
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