A man opened fire inside a south Texas baptist church during Sunday services this weekend, killing at least 26 people and injuring another 20 parishioners.
The gunman, identified by authorities as Devin Patrick Kelley, opened fire during Sunday morning services at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The 26-year-old was later found dead in his vehicle.
The Texas Department of Public Safety said Kelley lived in New Braunfels, which is more than 30 miles north of Sutherland Springs, a small Texas town of about 700 residents. Investigators said they believe the suspect died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Here’s everything we know so far about what’s considered to be the deadliest shooting in Texas history.
Around 11:20 a.m. local time Sunday, Kelley was spotted as a gas station across the street from First Baptist Church, which is located about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio.
Police said the suspect, who is white, was wearing all-black garb, including a black mask with a white skull on it. He was also equipped with a ballistic vest with a plate on the front and armed with an assault weapon.
The gunman started firing a Ruger AR rifle, a spin off the popular AR-15, at the church as he crossed the street, Freeman Martin, regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, told reporters Monday.
Once inside, the gunman continued to open fire during the church’s scheduled 11 a.m. Sunday service. Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr., describing how the shooting unfolded, said it was unlikely that parishioners could escape.
“You’ve got your pews on either side. He just walked down the center aisle, turned around and my understanding was shooting on his way back out,” Tackitt said.
HOW WAS THE SHOOTER APPREHENDED?
Police said an armed good Samaritan approached the suspect as he was leaving the church and shot him. Police have yet to identify the local resident, who lived across the street from the church, but added that he flagged down another person who was driving by and pursued the suspect by vehicle.
Johnnie Langendorff has come forward as the man who helped the local resident pursue the gunman. Langendorff told KSAT-TV that the pursuit ended when the suspect crashed near a sharp curve. The pair waited for authorities to arrive.
Martin said Kelley called his father as he fled the scene by vehicle, saying that the didn’t think he was going to make it. Kelley was later found dead in his vehicle. Officials later said he shot himself in the head.
WHO ARE THE VICTIMS?
The attack left 26 people dead. Police said 23 bodies were removed from the church, while two were found outside the building and one died at a nearby hospital.
Authorities have yet to release the names and ages of all the victims, but CNN reported that the ages ranged from 18 months to 77 years old.
Of the 20 people injured, 10 remain in critical condition. Police said the names of the victims will be released when all the next of kin have been notified.
Several hospitals and first responders in the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council (STRAC) trauma system treated victims of the attack.
University Hospital in San Antonio, a pediatric level one trauma center, received nine patients — four children and five adults — about an hour after the shooting, surgeon Brian Eastridge told reporters Monday. Brooke Army Medical Center also received victims of the attack.
Three of the children sent to University Hospital had multiple gunshot wounds, Eastridge said. One had been trampled.
Eastridge, a former Army surgeon, said the wounds he saw from Sunday’s attack are very similar to injuries he saw on the battlefield.
“Seeing an injured kid, particularly when it’s an injured child from your community, is gut wrenching,” he told reporters. ” … You never get used to that.”
Two of the adults at University Hospital have been released. Three children and three adults are still being treated. One child, who had a major abdomen injury, died.
Doctors praised the work of first responders, surgeons and other hospital staff who mobilized to get victims care as quickly as possible. Victim Tobias Walker, who was shot in the neck during the attack, was saved by first responders when they got to the scene. He presented EMT workers and firefighters with a plaque during Monday’s news conference thanking them for their service.
Pastor Frank Pomeroy’s 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was among the victims. The pastor and his wife had been out of town when the shooting took place, they said at Monday’s news conference.
“We lost more than Belle yesterday,” her mother, Sherri Pomeroy, told reporters.
“One thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement is the fact that Belle was surrounded yesterday by her church family that she loved fiercely, and vice-versa. Our church was not comprised of members or parishioners, we were a very close family. We ate together, we laughed together, we cried together and worshiped together. Now most of our church family is gone, our building probably beyond repair and the few of us that are left behind lost tragically yesterday. As senseless as this tragedy was, our sweet Belle would not have been able to deal with losing so much family yesterday. Please don’t forget Sutherland Springs,” she said.
WHO IS THE SHOOTER?
Kelley was a former Air Force member who served for four years until his “bad conduct” discharge in 2014, the AP reported. Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek told the AP that Kelley, who served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 to 2014, was court-martialed in 2012 for two counts of assault on his spouse and child. The discharge led to a reduction in rank and confinement for 12 months.
The Air Force never reported those charges to law enforcement, so they did not show up on the federal gun database when Kelley went to purchase a gun. (Felons and those convicted on domestic assault charges are not permitted to buy firearms under federal law). Police said multiple weapons have been recovered at the scene and in the suspect’s vehicle.
Houston television station KPRC reported Tuesday that Kelley had escaped from a New Mexico mental health facility in 2012, after he was caught smuggling firearms onto his military base and “attempting to carry out death threats” against his superiors in the military, according to the police report obtained by KPRC.
“The final page of the report states that there was an entry submitted to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database,” KPRC reported. An official at Tuesday’s press conference said Kelley’s name was not in any FBI database.
WHAT WAS THE SHOOTER’S MOTIVE?
Police have yet to report a motive for the shooting. Martin said there was a “domestic situation” going on within the suspect’s family, but did not elaborate. Authorities did say Kelley’s mother-in-law has attended the targeted church and that she received threatening texts from the suspect.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE WEAPONS?
Officials told reporters Monday that Kelley did not have a license to carry guns. ATF said investigators have recovered four weapons in connection to Kelley. Two were purchased in Colorado, two in Texas.
The San Antonio Express News pointed out that similar rifles, also based on the AR-15, were used at deadly shootings in San Bernardino, California, Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut.
HOW ARE LEADERS REACTING?
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Sunday’s attack was the worst mass shooting in Texas history, adding that “there are no words to describe the pure evil that we witnessed.”
“Our hearts are heavy at the anguish in this small town, but in time of tragedy, we see the very best of Texas. May God comfort those who’ve lost a loved one, and may God heal the hurt in our communities,” the governor said.
During his first official trip to Asia, President Donald Trump said that preliminary reports pointed to a “very deranged individual.” In the same news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the president also said Sunday’s mass shooting “isn’t a guns situation,” but a “mental health problem at the highest level.”
Officials said the investigation would continue for several days or weeks as authorities processed evidence, including video of the church during Sunday’s service, they said at Monday’s news conference.
The FBI said at a Tuesday press conference that it also recovered the shooter’s phone, but since it was encrypted, officials were unable to access the information stored inside. The phone has been shipped back to the FBI office in Quantico, Virginia.
It’s the same issue federal investigators faced after the 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California. The FBI took Apple to court in an effort to force the company to unlock the phone, but instead found a third-party vendor who was able to hack the device. A judge ruled last month that the FBI did not have to disclose how hackers accessed the phone, nor how much investigators paid for the service.
The victims spanned three school districts in south Texas. A spokeswoman told reporters Monday that all schools affected by the shooting had deployed grief counselors to help students and employees deal with the shooting.
At least two GoFundMe accounts have been created for victims of the shooting and their families. One, run by the nonprofit Hardest Hit Family Relief Fund (HHFRF), will be distributed directly to victims with the help of the Sutherland Springs Chamber of Commerce and Texas. The other fund will benefit The First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.
FBI and ATF officials are also involved in the investigation. Officials said there’s no open terrorism investigation at this time. Forensic investigators hope to finish processing the crime scene by Wednesday night before turning it over to local officials.
PBS NewsHour’s Erica R. Hendry reported for this story. NewsHour will update this story as it develops.