Texas shooting: A community in mourning

Law enforcement is still trying to piece together what motivated the Sutherland Spring shooter as the town begins a difficult healing process.

A gunman opened fire Sunday at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, in a rural area outside of San Antonio. He killed 26 people, many of them children. 

Here's what we know:

- Dead and injured: Texas Department of Public Safety regional director Freeman Martin said that in addition to the 26 killed in the incident, 20 were wounded.

As of Tuesday morning, 10 remained in critical condition and 4 were considered serious. The others received relatively minor injuries.

- The weapons: Fred Milanowski, an official from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the gunman, Devin Kelley, was in possession of a Ruger AR15-type semiautomatic rifle and two handguns. The Ruger was dropped outside the church and the handguns were found in his vehicle. 

- Clues to motivation: Martin described the tragedy as possibly arising from a "domestic situation" involving the shooter's mother-in-law, a congregant at the church. He mentioned "threatening texts" sent by Kelley. "We can tell you that there was a domestic situation going on within this family," Martin said. "This was not racially motivated, it wasn't over religious beliefs."

- Correction on ages of victims: Martin adjusted his earlier report on the ages of those killed, who he had said were between 5 and 72 years old. Instead, he said, the age range was between 18 months and 77. He said the first set of ages was for those wounded.

- Gunman's background: The gunman received a bad-conduct discharge from the Air Force in 2014. He was court-martialed in 2012 for assaulting his wife and children, and the Sheriff's Office is also re-examining a sexual assault case from 2013 where he may be a suspect. 

The gunman

The gunman was identified as Devin Kelley, 26, of nearby Comal County, Texas. Martin said police found the gunman dead in his car following a pursuit and believe Kelley killed himself.

Suspect in Sutherland Springs shooting confirmed to be Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, of New Braunfels, TX. More info to be released later today.

— Texas DPS (@TxDPS) November 6, 2017

Martin said the Kelley was dressed in black and wore a ballistic vest. He began firing outside the church and then entered the building and continued firing. As he left the church, Stephen Willeford, a local resident with a rifle pursued the gunman, who dropped his Ruger AR assault-type rifle and fled. 

Investigators confirmed Monday that the suspect was shot at that time by Willeford. The killer was pursued by Willeford and Johnnie Langendorff, who had a truck. The suspect called his dad and told him he did not believe he was going to make it. 

Officials confirmed Monday the shooter suffered three gunshot wounds: two from the Willeford in the leg and torso and once in the head, self-inflicted. The final shot killed him, officials say. 

Bad-conduct discharge 

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told USA TODAY that Kelley served in the 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico from 2010 until he was discharged.

Officials told the Associated Press Monday the Air Force did not submit Kelley's criminal history to the FBI, as required by the Pentagon. However, background checks found no "prohibited" information that prevented him from purchasing firearms. 

Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 for assaulting his spouse and their child. He received a bad-conduct discharge, was confined for 12 months and busted to the grade of E-1. He was discharged in 2014.  

The Comal County Sheriff's Office announced that they were re-examining a sexual assault case involving Kelley that may have fallen through the cracks. Sheriff Mark Reynolds told KENS 5 that a call about a sexual assault was made on June 13, 2018, and Kelley was a suspect. 

Mental hospital escape

According to a 2012 El Paso Police Department report, Kelley escaped from a mental institution in New Mexico, threatened his Air Force chain of command and had been caught sneaking firearms onto an air base. El Paso police arrested him on June 7, 2012, at a Greyhound bus station near the U.S. - Mexico border after he escaped the Peak Behavior Health Services facility. 
 
At the time, Kelley was facing a court martial on charges that he beat his wife and her son at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico about 100 miles north of El Paso. It’s unclear when Kelley was confined to the Sunland Park mental health facility.

Motive

Officials said they did not immediately know a motive for the attack. However, on Monday morning investigators said there was a "domestic situation" ongoing between Kelley and his in-laws, who attended the church but weren't present at the time of the shooting. 

Authorities explained that Kelley had recently sent threatening texts to his mother-in-law. However, Texas Department of Public Safety regional director Freeman Martin said he believed there was more motivating the shooter than just a family conflict.

"There are many ways he could have taken care of the mother-in-law without coming with 15 loaded magazines with an assault rifle to church," he said.

"I think he came with a purpose and a mission." 

The church, located about 25 miles east of San Antonio, normally posted video of its services online, Tackitt said. But he said there was "very little" video from Sunday's service.

Number of dead and injured 

At least 26 people were killed, and the youngest victim was only 18 months old, investigators confirmed on Monday morning. 

Of the deceased, 23 died inside the church, two were killed outside and another victim was transported to a hospital and died, said Texas Department of Public Safety regional director Freeman Martin.

On Monday morning, Sheriff Joe Tackitt of Wilson County, where Sutherland Springs is located, told the USA TODAY Network that 12 to 14 children were among the victims.

Officials added Monday morning that 10 people remain in critical condition and the number of victims may go up. 

“It’s just a horrific sight,” Tackitt said of the scene inside the church. “You don’t expect to walk into a church and see something like that, especially when all the bodies were there, and seeing the children. That’s what hurts the most.” 

Who are the victims?

Names of the victims had not been released, but family members who lost loved ones have begun to share their stories. 

Three generations of the Holcombe family were killed. Bryan Holcombe was a guest pastor that day and was about to address the church. His wife, Karla, was also killed, along with several family members:

Marc – son of Bryan and Karla
Noah – infant daughter of Marc

Crystal – daughter-in-law of Bryan and Karla, she was eight months pregnant
Emily – daughter of Crystal
Megan – daughter of Crystal
Greg – son of Crystal

The pastor and his wife were out of town in two different states at the time of the attack. Their 14-year-old daughter Annabelle Pomeroy was killed.

“We lost our 14 year old daughter today and many friends,” her mother, Sherri Pomeroy, wrote to the Associated Press. “Neither of us have made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation." She said she was "trying to get home as soon as I can.”

Michael Ward, 31, told The Dallas Morning News that his brother’s wife, Joann Ward, and two of her children were among the victims. Brooke Ward, 5, and Emily Garza, 7, died. Joann’s son Ryland Ward, 5, was shot multiple times. Michael was the one who carried Ryland out of the church and to help.

A U.S. Air Force veteran and his wife were also killed in the shooting, according to multiple outlets in Michigan, where they grew up. They were graduates of Harrison High School in Harrison, Michigan.

Charlene Uhl told People magazine her daughter Haley Krueger, 16, is among the victims of the shooting.

Haley had arrived at church early on Sunday to prepare breakfast, her mother told People magazine.

Evangelina Santos told Univision that her brother Richard Rodriguez, 51, and his wife, Theresa Rodriguez, were among the victims.

Rodriguez’s daughter, Regina, told the Associate Press that her father attended the church every Sunday.

Tara Elyse McNulty, a bartender at The Aumont Saloon in Seguin, Texas, was killed in the shooting at First Baptist Church, according to her employer.

Response from local schools

During a Monday afternoon press briefing, officials from nearby school districts explained the response in their schools so far.

La Vernia Independent School District confirmed one student from their schools were killed and three more injured in Sunday's shooting. Floresville ISD said two of the victims were students in its district and three others were hurt. 

Superintendents explained that they met with teachers before the start of the school day, grief counselors have been talking with students and parents, and there has been extra support for classrooms where students died.

“It’s devastating. It’s very difficult for the family members” Floresville Superintendent Sherri Bays said. 

What leaders are saying

President Trump tweeted from Japan: "May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. FBI & law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan."

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.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 5, 2017

Trump has been briefed several times about the tragic shooting and continues to receive regular updates, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. Trump also spoke with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, she said.

In a news conference with  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Trump said Monday that better mental health care — not gun control — is the key to understanding the mass shooting. "This isn't a guns situation,” he said. 

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tweeted that he spoke with to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott about the "horrific shooting," and that state and federal law enforcement were working closely. "Prayers for all harmed. Truly evil," Cruz said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., tweeted that prayers are not enough. "After another unspeakable tragedy, Congress must act — or be complicit," he said. 

A deadly anniversary 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton noted on CNN that Sunday's shooting took place eight years to the day after the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, which unfolded about 150 miles north of Sutherland Springs.

In that shooting, Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army doctor, killed 13 and wounded 32 in the deadliest domestic military attack in U.S. history.

Paxton said he wondered if there was a connection between the two shootings. "It’s just strange to me that it happened on the same day and in the same state," he said.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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