Pas­tor: Church will be de­mol­ished

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS - By Paul J. We­ber and Emily Schmall

SUTHER­LAND SPRINGS, TEXAS » The Texas church where more than two dozen peo­ple were killed by a gun­man dur­ing Sun­day ser­vices will be de­mol­ished, the pas­tor said.

Pas­tor Frank Pomeroy told lead­ers of the South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion ear­lier this week that it would be too pain­ful to con­tinue us­ing First Bap­tist Church as a place of­wor­ship.

Pomeroy dis­cussed the state of the build­ing with the de­nom­i­na­tion’s top ex­ec­u­tives, who trav­eled to the ru­ral com­mu­nity in a show of sup­port, a na­tional South­ern Bap­tist spokesman said.

The pas­tor de­scribed the church as “too stark of a re­minder” of the mas­sacre, spokesman Sing Old­ham said.

No fi­nal de­ci­sions can be made with­out con­sult­ing con­gre­gants, but Pomeroy dis­cussed turn­ing the site into amemo­rial for the dead and putting up a new build­ing on prop­erty the church owns, Old­ham said.

Char­lene Uhl, mother of 16-year- old Ha­ley Krueger, who died in the at­tack, agreed that the church should come down.

There should still be a church “but not here,” she said Thurs­day as she vis­ited a row of white crosses com­mem­o­rat­ing the vic­tims in front of the build­ing. She said her daugh­ter at­tended wor­ship ser­vices and a weekly Thurs­day night youth group meet­ing held by an­other vic­tim, Karla Hol­combe.

Jean­nie Brown, vis­it­ing from In­di­ana, stopped at the site with her daugh­ter, who used to live in Suther­land Springs but left decades ago for San An­to­nio.

Asked whether the church should be de­stroyed, Brown said: “Yes. Who would want to go back in there? But then if it is de­stroyed, does that mean he (the gun­man) won?”

Other sites of­mass shoot­ings have been torn down, in­clud­ing Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary in New­town, Con­necti­cut, where a gun­man killed 20 chil­dren and six adults in De­cem­ber 2012. A new school was built else­where.

A one-room Amish school­house near Lan­caster, Penn­syl­va­nia, was torn down in 2006, 10 days af­ter an as­sailant took chil­dren hostage and shot and killed five girls ages 6 to 13.

The pre­vi­ous site of the school is now a pas­ture. A nearly iden­ti­cal school­house with a se­cu­rity fence was erected nearby and named New Hope School.

The fa­ther of the gun­man broke the fam­ily’s si­lence and said his rel­a­tives are griev­ing.

Michael Kel­ley spoke to ABC News on Wed­nes­day from his home in New Braun­fels, about 35miles (55 kilo­me­ters) north of Suther­land Springs.

He said he does not want the “me­dia cir­cus” sur­round­ing the at­tack by Devin Pa­trick Kel­ley to de­stroy “our lives, our grand­chil­dren’s lives.”

A mo­tive re­mains un­clear, but the younger Kel­ley ap­pears to have tar­geted the church be­cause it was at­tended by his wife’s fam­ily. He died froma self-in­flicted gun­shot wound af­ter be­ing shot and chased by two res­i­dents when he was leav­ing the church, au­thor­i­ties said.

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