What We Know About the Sutherland Springs Church Shooting
Details continue to emerge about the shooting in Sutherland Springs. Here’s what we know so far.
This post will be updated to reflect developments.
On Sunday a gunman opened fire at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, killing at least 26 and injuring at least 20. The number of people killed has surpassed the 1991 Luby’s massacre, making it the deadliest mass shooting in the state. Here’s what we know so far.
At approximately 11:20 Sunday morning, the suspected shooter was seen at a gas station across from the church dressed in all black “tactical-type” gear with a ballistic vest, according to Freeman Martin, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety. At a press conference on Sunday Martin said that the suspect—later identified by law enforcement as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley—then crossed the street, exited his vehicle, and began firing a Ruger AR-556—which Martin described as an “assault-type rifle”—outside of the church. The man then entered the church, where Sunday services were underway, and continued to fire. As the suspect exited the church, a Sutherland Springs resident armed with a rifle “engaged” him, though Freeman was unclear about the nature of the encounter. The shooter then dropped his weapon and fled in his vehicle with the resident in pursuit.
After running off of the road at the Wilson-Guadalupe county line a short time later, the suspect was found dead in his car. Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said Monday morning that he believes that the suspect died of a self-inflicted gun shot wound.
According to Martin, 23 people were found dead inside of the church, and two more were found outside. Another victim died a short time later after being transferred to the hospital, bringing the total to 26. The ages of those killed ranged from 5 to 72. The names of the deceased were not immediately released to the public, but family members have begun to speak to various news outlets.
The Associated Press reports that Crystal Holcombe, one of the women who was killed, was eight months pregnant. Crystal Holcombe’s cousin Nick Uhlig told the AP that her in-laws, Bryan and Karla Holcombe, were also killed in the attack. Uhlig told the San Antonio Express-News that three of Holcombe’s five children had died in the church, and that the other two remained in critical condition. Holcombe’s brother-in-law and young child were also killed, according to CNN, meaning that eight people from the family were among the twenty-six victims.
Fourteen-year-old Annabelle Pomeroy, the youngest daughter of the church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy, was among the people killed in the attack, according to ABC News. Frank described his daughter as was “one very beautiful, special child,” ABC reported.
The Dallas Morning News reports that one family lost three of its members in the shooting. Emily Garza, 7, Brooke Ward, 5, and their mother, Joann Ward, all died in the attack. Joann Ward’s son, Ryland, sustained serious injuries and is in the hospital.
Approximately 20 other people were injured in the attack and have been transferred to San Antonio hospitals with injuries ranging from “minor to very severe,” Martin said. KENS 5 reported that University Hospital has taken in ten of the victims, four of them children.
Law enforcement identified the shooter to multiple media outlets as Devin Patrick Kelley, a 26-year-old from New Braunfels. There is little information about any possible motivation Kelley might have had for killing two dozen people, but there are details emerging about his life leading up to November 5.
The Washington Post reports that in 2012, Kelley—then a U.S. Air Force airman—was court-martialed and sentenced to a year in military prison for assaulting his wife and child. He was reduced in rank and released with a bad-conduct discharge in 2014. Court records show that his wife filed for divorce in October 2012, and it was settled in a matter of days. During his time in the Air Force, from 2010 to 2014, Kelley served at the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
Records obtained by the Post indicate that Kelley had been living on property owned by his parents in New Braunfels. Neighbors told KENS 5 that Kelley lived in a barn apartment behind the main house with his current wife and child. They report hearing frequent gunshots from the property, which is in a rural area, but noted that it always occurred around 10 or 11 p.m. The entrance to the home was guarded by police on Sunday night.
Speaking from Japan, President Donald Trump called the shooting a “horrible act of evil.” His full statement:
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of today’s murderous attack in Sutherland Springs, Texas. This horrible act of evil occurred as the victims and their families were in their place of sacred worship. We cannot put into words the pain and grief we all feel, and we cannot begin to imagine the suffering of those who lost the ones they loved. Our hearts are broken.
But in dark times such as these, Americans do what we do best: we pull together. We join hands. We lock arms. And through the tears and the sadness, we stand strong.
My Administration is providing its full support to the state and local authorities investigating this horrible crime. I have spoken with Governor Abbott, and we offer our thanks to the first responders who ultimately stopped the suspect and rendered immediate and lifesaving aid to the victims of this shooting. I will continue to follow developments closely.
All of America is praying to God to help the wounded and the families—we will never leave their side.
…Americans do what we do best: we pull together. We join hands. We lock arms and through the tears and the sadness, we stand strong… pic.twitter.com/qkCPgtKGkA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2017
Trump additionally called this a “mental health problem at the highest level,” though he provided no basis for the claim.
Governor Greg Abbott addressed reporters at the press conference on Sunday. He later released this statement through his office:
While the details of this horrific act are still under investigation, Cecilia and I want to send our sincerest thoughts and prayers to all those who have been affected by this evil act. I want to thank law enforcement for their response and ask that all Texans pray for the Sutherland Springs community during this time of mourning and loss.
After Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich used the traditional post-game interview to address the shooting:
— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) November 6, 2017
We won a basketball game, but considering what’s gone on today, it’s pretty meaningless when you think about the tragedy those families are suffering. It’s inconceivable and impossible to put your head around so I think talking about basketball tonight is probably pretty inappropriate.