Texas church attack leaves 26 dead, small community reeling
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP) — A gunman dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault rifle opened fire inside a small South Texas church, killing 26 people in an attack that claimed tight-knit neighbors and multiple family members ranging in age from 5 to 72 years old.
Once the shooting started Sunday at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, there was likely "no way" for congregants to escape, said Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr. Officials said about 20 others were wounded.
"He just walked down the center aisle, turned around and my understanding was shooting on his way back out," said Tackitt, who said the gunman also carried a handgun but that he didn't know if it was fired. Tackitt described the scene as "terrible."
"It's unbelievable to see children, men and women, laying there. Defenseless people," he said.
Authorities didn't identify the attacker during a news conference Sunday night. But two other officials — one a U.S. official and one in law enforcement — identified him as Devin Kelley. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the investigation.
The U.S. official said Kelley lived in a San Antonio suburb and didn't appear to be linked to organized terrorist groups. Investigators were looking at social media posts Kelley made in the days before the attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon.
Kelley received a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force for assaulting his spouse and child, and was sentenced to 12 months' confinement after a 2012 court-martial. Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his 2014 discharge, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.
At the news conference, the attacker was described only as a white man in his 20s who was wearing black tactical gear and a ballistic vest when he pulled into a gas station across from the church, about 30 miles (48.28 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio, around 11:20 a.m.
The gunman crossed the street and started firing the rifle at the church, said Freeman Martin, a regional director of the Texas Department of Safety, then continued firing after entering the white wood-frame building, where an 11 a.m. service was scheduled.
As he left, the shooter was confronted by an armed resident who "grabbed his rifle and engaged that suspect," Martin said. A short time later, the suspect was found dead in his vehicle at the county line.
Federal agents, including ATF investigators and the FBI's evidence collection team, swarmed the small rural community of just hundreds of residents.
Several weapons were found inside the vehicle and Martin said it was unclear if the attacker died of a self-inflicted wound or if he was shot by the resident who confronted him. He said investigators weren't ready to discuss a possible motive.
Martin said 23 of the dead were found in the church, two were found outside and one died after being taken to a hospital.
The man who confronted Kelley had help from another local resident, Johnnie Langendorff, who told KSAT TV that he was driving past the church as the shooting happened. He didn't identify the armed resident but said the man exchanged gunfire with the gunman, then asked to get in Langendorff's truck and the pair followed as the gunman drove away.
Langendorff said the gunman eventually lost control of his vehicle and crashed. He said the other man walked up to the vehicle with his gun drawn and the suspect did not move. He stayed there for at least five minutes, until police arrived.
"I was strictly just acting on what's the right thing to do," Langendorff said.
Among those killed was the church pastor's 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle Pomeroy. Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife, Sherri, were both out of town when the attack occurred, Sherri Pomeroy wrote in a text message.
"We lost our 14-year-old daughter today and many friends," she wrote. "Neither of us has made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation. I am at the charlotte airport trying to get home as soon as i can."
Church member Nick Uhlig, 34, who wasn't at Sunday's service, told the AP that his cousin, who was 8 months pregnant, and her in-laws were among those killed. He later told the Houston Chronicle that three of his cousin's children also were slain.
President Donald Trump, who was in Japan, called the shooting an "act of evil," later calling the gunman "a very deranged individual."
Sunday evening, two sheriff's vans were parked outside the gate of a cattle fence surrounding the address listed for Kelley on the rural, western outskirts of New Braunfels, north of San Antonio.
Ryan Albers, 16, who lives across the road, said he heard intensifying gunfire coming from that direction in recent days.
"It was definitely not just a shotgun or someone hunting," Albers said. "It was someone using automatic weapon fire."
The church has posted videos of its Sunday services on a YouTube channel, raising the possibility that the shooting was captured on video.
In a video of its Oct. 8 service, a congregant who spoke and read Scripture pointed to the Oct. 1 Las Vegas shooting a week earlier as evidence of the "wicked nature" of man. That shooting left 58 dead and more than 500 injured.
Gov. Greg Abbott called Sunday's attack the worst mass shooting in Texas history. It came on the eighth anniversary of a shooting at the Texas' Fort Hood, where 13 people were killed and 31 others wounded by a former U.S. Army major.
The previous deadliest mass shooting in Texas had been a 1991 attack in Killeen, when a mentally disturbed man crashed his pickup truck through a restaurant window at lunchtime and started shooting people, killing 23 and injuring more than 20 others.
The University of Texas was the site of one of the most infamous mass shootings in modern American history, when U.S. Marine sniper Charles Whitman climbed the Austin campus' clock tower in 1966 and began firing on stunned people below, killing 13 and wounding nearly three dozen others. He had killed his wife and mother before heading to the tower, one victim died a week later and medical examiners eventually attributed a 17th death to Whitman in 2001.
Gov. Greg Abbott says 26 people were killed in the attack on a Texas church and that it was the deadliest mass shooting in the state's history.
Abbott's remarks came during a news conference Sunday, hours after the attack on the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a community 30 miles southeast of San Antonio.
The victims ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old.
Two officials who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity identified the attacker as Devin Kelley.
Two officials have identified the suspect in a mass shooting at a Texas church as Devin Kelley.
The officials — one a U.S. official and the other in law enforcement — spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation, which they were briefed on.
The U.S. official says Kelley lived in a suburb of San Antonio and that he doesn't appear to be linked to organized terrorist groups. The official says 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.
Authorities say Kelley walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and opened fire, killing more than 20 people and wounding at least 10 others.
This item has been corrected to fix the spelling of Kelley on second reference.
A congregant who wasn't at a Texas church the day of a deadly shooting says his cousins attended and that family members have been told at least one was killed.
Thirty-four-year-old Nick Uhlig says he didn't go to the Sutherland Springs church Sunday because he was out late Saturday. He says the cousin who was killed had three children and was pregnant with a fourth. He didn't know specifics about how the other was doing.
Uhlig says the family had just met days earlier for his cousins' grandfather's funeral.
The wife of the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs says the couple's 14-year-old daughter was among those killed in a mass shooting at the church.
Sherri Pomeroy, wife of Pastor Frank Pomeroy, said in a text message that she lost her daughter "and many friends" in the Sunday shooting. The text came in response to an interview request sent by The Associated Press to a phone number linked in online records to Frank Pomeroy.
Sherri Pomeroy says both she and her husband were out of town and trying to get back to Sutherland Springs, outside of San Antonio.
A law enforcement official says more than 20 people have been killed in a shooting at a church in a small town outside San Antonio.
The official, who was briefed on the investigation, says the gunman fled the church in a vehicle after the shooting and was also killed, either by a self-inflicted wound or during a confrontation with police. The official was not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The official says between 10 to 15 people were also injured but stressed the investigation was early and the figures could change. Authorities are still trying to determine a motive.
Federal law enforcement swarmed the scene to offer assistance, including ATF investigators and members of the FBI's evidence collection team.
Associated Press writer Sadie Gurman in Washington contributed to this report.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is calling a reported shooting at a church in a small town outside San Antonio an "evil act."
A sheriff says a man entered First Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and started shooting, leaving multiple people dead and injured.
Abbott tweeted Sunday: "Our prayers are with all who were harmed by this evil act." He thanked law enforcement for their response.
The Republican governor has also promised "more details" from the state's Department of Public Safety soon.
Sutherland Springs is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement that his office "stands ready to assist local law enforcement as needed."
President Donald Trump has tweeted from Japan that he is monitoring the situation in Texas following a mass shooting at a church.
Trump tweeted: "May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas." He added that the FBI is on the scene.
Trump is in Japan as part of a 12-day, five-country Asian trip.
A spokeswoman says the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is sending special agents from field offices in Houston and San Antonio to the site of a church shooting in South Texas.
ATF spokeswoman Mary Markos did not immediately have further details.
A sheriff says that a man walked into the church and started firing. Authorities say the attacker is dead.
The number of fatalities or injuries hasn't been confirmed by authorities, but a Wilson County commissioner, Albert Gamez, has told cable news outlets that he was told it was more than 20 killed and 20 wounded, though those figures aren't confirmed.
One hospital about 10 miles from the shooting says there "multiple" victims with gunshot wounds are being treated.
Connally Memorial Medical Center spokeswoman Megan Posey declined to say how many patients were being treated at the hospital, but said the number was less than a dozen. The hospital is in Floresville, Texas.
A County Commissioner in Texas says he's been told that more than 20 people were killed and more than 20 were wounded in an attack at a church, though he says those figures haven't been confirmed.
Albert Gamez, a Wilson County commissioner, made the comments to cable news outlets after the attack Sunday at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, a small community 30 miles southeast of San Antonio.
A sheriff says that a man walked into the church and started firing. Authorities say the attacker is dead.
A sheriff says a man walked into a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and started shooting, leaving multiple people dead.
The Wilson County News reports that Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said the shooter has been taken down. It wasn't immediately known how many people were killed and wounded or who carried out the attack.
First responders converged on the church in the small town southeast of San Antonio and helicopters are taking victims to hospitals.
Sutherland Springs is a community of about 400 people 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio.
Local news outlets report that several people have been shot at a Baptist Church in South Texas.
Television stations KSAT and KENS report that there are multiple victims and that there is a large police presence at the church in Sutherland Springs, which is 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio.
KSAT reports that two Airlife helicopters are also at the scene.
A sheriff's department dispatcher says everyone is at the scene and unavailable to comment.
KSAT has video of several fire and police vehicles at the church and a photo of a helicopter that the station says was arriving to take victims to hospitals.