Bloody Sunday massacre as gunman shoots dead 26 at Texas church
US media outlets had identified the gunman as a 26-year-old veteran who had faced a court martial and was dishonourably discharged from the Air Force
A black-clad gunman armed with an assault rifle opened fire on a small-town Texas church during Sunday morning services, killing 26 people and wounding 20 in the last mass shooting to shock the United States.
According to The New York Times, the gunman, identified as 26-year-old Devin Kelley, opened fire with a rifle outside a small Baptist church in Sutherland Springs near San Antonio and continued firing inside the building, dressed in black and wearing a ballistic vest.
An armed resident wounded Kelley as he left the church, authorities told CNN. The civilian and another man chased Kelly for several kilometres until he crashed his car, one of them told local news station KSAT. He then turned the gun on himself.
CNN said Kelley was previously a member of the US Air Force.
Governor Greg Abbott warned the toll may rise.
“There are 26 lives that have been lost. We don’t know if that number will rise or not, all we know is that’s too many, and this will be a long, suffering mourning for those in pain,” he said.
Kelley’s in-laws attended the church, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told CNN. However, they were not there on Sunday.
The victims ranged in age from five to 72. The gunman fired outside at the church before entering the building and continuing to spray bullets, said Freeman Martin, regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“As he exited the church, a local resident grabbed his rifle and engaged that suspect. The suspect dropped his rifle, which was a Ruger AR assault-type rifle, and fled from the church. Our local citizen pursued the suspect at that time,” Martin said.
Law enforcement later found the gunman dead in his car, which had crashed, on the Wilson-Guadalupe county line.
“There’s so many families who have lost family members. Fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters,” Abbott said.
“The tragedy, of course, is worsened by the fact that it occurred in a church, a place of worship, where these people were innocently gunned down. We mourn their loss, but we support their family members.”
The wounded had been transported to various hospitals with “injuries that vary from minor to very severe,” Martin said.
The dead included the 14-year-old daughter of pastor Frank Pomeroy, the church leader told ABC News.
Annabelle Renee Pomeroy “was one very beautiful, special child,” her father said.
Frank Pomeroy had been in the neighbouring state of Oklahoma at the time of the shooting, and was driving back to Texas after the tragedy.
Other victims, some of whom were evacuated by helicopter, included a six-year-old boy named Rylan who was in surgery after being shot four times, his uncle told CBS News. A two-year-old was also shot and wounded, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were heading to Sutherland Springs, the agencies said.
President Donald Trump, who is travelling in Asia, denounced the “horrific shooting”.
“This act of evil occurred as the victims and their families were in their place of worship. Our hearts are broken,” he said. “We pull together, we join hands, we lock arms and through the tears and through the sadness, we stand strong.”
The shooting comes just over a month after a gunman in Las Vegas fired down from a hotel room onto an outdoor concert, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
And Sunday’s tragedy came just over two years after a white supremacist, Dylann Roof, entered a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and shot nine people to death.
Associated Press, Tribune News Service, Agence France-Presse