SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX — The nation’s deadliest shooting at a house of worship has occurred at First Baptist Church here as at least 25 worshipers were gunned down during a morning worship service today.
New reports state that a lone gunman walked into the service at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time and began shooting. The Wilson County sheriff’s office confirmed 26 dead, not including the shooter. Another 27 were injured, according to ABC News.
It is the largest mass shooting in Texas state history, according to the governor’s office. The shooter, dressed in all black, walked from a Valero gas station across the street and fired into the front of the church and then the right side before entering the sanctuary. He wore a ballistic vest as he unloaded his assault rifle into those in the pews.
The death toll would represent about half of those who regularly attend the morning worship service. Local authorities reported 23 deceased were found inside the church, two outside, and one passed away later at the hospital. A pregnant woman and children – including the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter – are confirmed dead with several others injured; 10 victims are confirmed as admitted to San Antonio University Hospital. The deceased range in age from 18 months to 77.
At least 8 members of the same family were among those who lost their lives; 14, more than half of those who died, were children according to CNN. The massacre equaled one-in-fourteen of the small town’s residents, or one-seventh of the population.
The congregation is affiliated with Bluebonnet Baptist Association and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The rural town of Sutherland Springs has a population of between 300-500, according to news reports.
The suspected gunman, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, is confirmed dead after being chased into another county and running his vehicle off the road. It was not known if he was shot by law enforcement, shot himself, or died as a result of the crash.
CBS News reported that Kelley is a former U.S. Air Force member who served from 2010-2014. He was dishonorably discharged and courtmartialed in May 2014. Federal sources said he used an AR-15 type rifle.
“Annabelle was one very beautiful, special child,” Pastor Frank Pomeroy told ABC News. Annabelle Renee Pomeroy was her father’s youngest daughter. The pastor, according to the news outlet, was in Oklahoma this morning when the shooter opened fire in the church.
Sutherland Springs is located about 40 miles southeast of San Antonio.