26 killed in church at­tack in Texas

Sun.Star Pampanga - - WORLD! -

SUTHER­LAND SPRINGS, Texas -- A man dressed in black tac­ti­cal-style gear and armed with an as­sault ri­fle opened fire in­side a church in a small South Texas com­mu­nity on Sun­day, killing 26 peo­ple and wound­ing about 20 oth­ers in what the gov­er­nor called the dead­li­est mass shoot­ing in the state's his­tory.

Of­fi­cials didn't iden­tify the at­tacker dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Sun­day night, but two other of­fi­cials — one a US of­fi­cial and one in law en­force­ment — who were briefed on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion 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 US of­fi­cial said Kel­ley lived in a San An­to­nio sub­urb and doesn't ap­pear to be linked to or­ga­nized ter­ror­ist groups. The of­fi­cial said 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.

At the news con­fer­ence, Freeman Martin, the re­gional direc­tor of the Texas De­part­ment of Pub­lic Safety, said the at­tacker was dressed all in black, wear­ing tac­ti­cal gear and a bal­lis­tic vest, when he ar­rived at a gas sta­tion across from the First Bap­tist Church at around 11:20 a.m.

He crossed the street and started fir­ing a Ruger AR ri­fle at the church, and con­tin­ued af­ter en­ter­ing the build­ing. As he left, he was con­fronted by an armed res­i­dent who chased him. A short time later, the sus­pect was found dead in his ve­hi­cle at the county line, Martin said. There were sev­eral weapons in­side.

Martin said it's un­clear if the at­tacker died of a self-in­flected wound or if he was shot by the res­i­dent who con­fronted him. He said in­ves­ti­ga­tors weren't ready to dis­cuss a pos­si­ble mo­tive for the at­tack. He said the dead ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old. Twenty-three were found dead in the church, two were found out­side and one died af­ter be­ing taken to a hos­pi­tal.

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

Among those killed was the 14-year-old daugh­ter of the church's pas­tor, Frank Pomeroy, and his wife, Sherri. Sherri Pomeroy wrote in a text mes­sage to the AP that she and her hus­band were out of town in two dif­fer­ent states when the at­tack oc­curred.

"We lost our 14 year old daugh­ter to­day and many friends," she wrote. "Nei­ther of us have 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."

The wounded were taken to hos­pi­tals. Video on KSAT tele­vi­sion showed first re­spon­ders tak­ing a stretcher from the church to a wait­ing AirLife he­li­copter.

Eight vic­tims were taken by med­i­cal he­li­copter to the Brooke Army Med­i­cal Cen­ter, the mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal said.

Me­gan Posey, a spokes­woman for Con­nally Memo­rial Med­i­cal Cen­ter, which is in Floresville 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.

Alena Ber­langa, a Floresville res­i­dent who was mon­i­tor­ing the chaos on a po­lice scan­ner and in Face­book com­mu­nity groups, said ev­ery­one knows ev­ery­one else in the sparsely pop­u­lated county. Suther­land Springs has only a few hun­dred res­i­dents.

"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," she said.

Regina Ro­driguez ar­rived at the church a cou­ple of hours af­ter the shoot­ing and walked up to the po­lice bar­ri­cade. She hugged a per­son she was with. She had been at an amuse­ment park with her chil­dren when she heard of the shoot­ing.

She said her fa­ther, 51-year-old Richard Ro­driguez, at­tends the church ev­ery Sun­day, and she hadn't been able to reach him. She said she feared the worst.

Nick Uh­lig, 34, is a church mem­ber who didn't go Sun­day morn­ing be­cause he was out late Satur­day night. He said his cousins were at the church and that his fam­ily was told at least one of them, a wo­man with three chil­dren and preg­nant with an­other, is among the dead. He said he hadn't heard spe­cific news about the other.

"We just gath­ered to bury their grand­fa­ther on Thurs­day," he said. "This is the only church here. We have Bible study, men's Bible study, va­ca­tion Bible school."

"Some­body went in and started shoot­ing," he said, shak­ing his head and tak­ing a long drag of his cig­a­rette.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted from Ja­pan, where is his on an Asian trip, that he was mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion.

He called the Texas church shoot­ing "an act of evil," de­nounced the vi­o­lence in "a place of sa­cred wor­ship" and pledged the full sup­port of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. He said that in a time of grief "Amer­i­cans will do what we do best: we pull to­gether and join hands and lock arms and through the tears and sad­ness we stand strong."

Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott called the shoot­ing an "evil act."

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

"We're shocked. Shocked and dis­mayed," said state Sen. Ju­dith Zaf­firini, a Laredo Demo­crat whose dis­trict in­cludes Suther­land Springs. "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. 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 Oct. 29, Frank 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 be 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."


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, on Sun­day, Nov. 5, 2017.

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