A man dressed in black with 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 leaving 20 wounded in the deadliest mass shooting in the state’s history.
Officials failed to identify the attacker during a news broadcast on Sunday night, but two other officials and a law enforcement – who was briefed on the investigation, identified him as Devin Kelley. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorised to discuss the investigation.
The US official said Kelley lived in a San Antonio suburb and doesn’t appear to be linked to organised terrorist groups. According to the officials, the investigators are searching looking at social media posts Kelley may make in the days before Sunday’s attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon.
At the news conference, the regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Freeman Martin, said that the attacker was dressed in 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,” said Marin.
Adding further, he said, “It’s unclear if the attacker died of a self-inflicted wound or if he was shot by the resident who confronted him”. He said that investigators are not ready to discuss a possible motive for the attack. He said, “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.
In the list of people killed includes a 14-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy, and his wife, Sherri Pomeroy. Sherri Pomeroy wrote a letter 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.
President Donald Trump tweeted from Japan, where is his on an Asian trip, that he was monitoring the situation. 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.