Over 26 Dead, 30 Injured in Texas, US Church Shooting

A single shooter walked into a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday morning and opened fire, leaving at least 26 worshippers dead and many more injured.
The number of the dead at the First Baptist church, in the small town 30 miles south-east of San Antonio, made the killing the worst mass shooting in modern Texas history and one of the worst such gun rampages in recent years.
The lone shooter was found dead after he was chased by locals and police across county lines.
In a Sunday evening press conference, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said: “There are so many families who have lost family members, and it occurred in a church, in a place of worship. That’s where these people were mown down. We mourn their loss.”
Twenty three worshippers died inside the church, two outside it and one after being taken to hospital. Many more injured were still being treated. The ages of the dead ranged from five to 72.
Law enforcement officials at the press conference did not name the gunman, though his name was reported as Devin Patrick Kelley elsewhere. The Air Force said Kelley, 26, served from 2010 to 2014 when he left following a court martial. He received a bad conduct discharge for assaulting his wife and child. Kelley lived in the town of New Braunfels, about 35 miles from Sutherland Springs. On Sunday night police were at the property.
Freeman Martin of the Texas department of public safety gave a brief timeline of events.
At around 11.20am, he said, the suspect, described as a white male in his early 20s, was seen at a gas station over the road from the church.
He was dressed all in black in tactical-style clothes including a ballistic vest. He crossed the road and as he approached the church he began shooting, carrying on the firing as he entered the place of worship itself.
After the carnage, as he was leaving the church, he was engaged by a local resident carrying a rifle. The shooter dropped his own weapon, a Ruger assault rifle, and fled.
He was pursued by police and just as he reached Guadalupe County his vehicle veered off the road. He was found in the car dead, it is not known whether by his own hand or having been shot by a local resident.
The scale of the shooting, and its location in a Baptist church in the south, presented Donald Trump with a renewed gun dilemma just as he embarked on a five-country tour in Asia. In his opening response to the massacre, the President tweeted: “May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan.”
He later said at a press conference in Tokyo that the shooting was an act of “pure evil”.
The shooting led to dramatic scenes in the tiny community of Sutherland Springs. A local television station, KSAT, reported that two Airlife helicopters were on hand to take victims to hospitals. At least 10 were taken to Connally Memorial Medical Centre in Floresville. Eight others were sent to the Brooke Army Medical Centre in San Antonio.
Witnesses reported hearing a rapid barrage of about 20 gunshots. “It was very close,” Carrie Matula, who had been working in a store across the street, told CNN. “It was semi-automatic, rapid fire. This is just devastating in a small town like this.”
Pastor Frank Buford of the neighbouring River Oaks Church, just a few blocks away, said relatives of victims had started to congregate at a makeshift community centre. “We’re holding up as well as we can – we are a strong community, we are strong in our faith,” he told local reporters.
Buford described Sutherland Springs, which has only about a few hundred residents, as a close-knit community.
“We have a post office, two churches and a dollar store,” he said. His church received word that a shooting was under way at their sister place of worship. “We started praying for everyone involved,” he said.
The Pastor of First Baptist, Frank Pomeroy, and his wife Sherri were out of town when the shooting happened. In a text to Associated Press, Sherri Pomeroy said their 14-year-old daughter had died inside the church. She added that she had also lost “many friends” in the massacre.
Law enforcement officials stand next to a covered body at the scene of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
The shooting comes a month after a gunman opened fire on an open-air concert in Las Vegas, leaving 58 dead and 546 injured. After that, Trump showed himself to be reluctant to get involved in the debate around gun control, limiting himself to sending his prayers to the victims and their families.
That was in stark contrast to the rapid and virulent response he had to the truck attack in New York last week, where eight people were mowed down by a driver inspired by the terrorist group Isis. After that attack, Trump called for a crackdown on immigration rules.
Speaking in Tokyo after the Sutherland Springs shooting, Trump blamed the attack on the gunman’s “mental health problems” and said it “isn’t a guns situation.” He said it was lucky there was an armed local on the scene who shot at the attacker, otherwise “it would have been much worse.”
As the FBI and local law enforcers begin to piece together what happened, it is possible they will be assisted by the church’s own video footage. First Baptist was in the habit of recording all its Sunday services and posting them on YouTube.
The recordings capture a homely, small church with many small children in attendance, copious flowers and plenty of singing to the accompaniment of electric and accoustic guitars. On one recent Sunday a Harley-Davidson motorbike was parked in front of the altar.
As the sun began to set on Sunday, reporters and locals gathered on the edge of a police cordon about 50m from the church, whose sign was still advertising a “fall festival” from 31 October.

Author: News Editor

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