HOUSTON, Nov 6:
A court-martialled former US Air Force airman armed with a powerful assault rifle sprayed bullets on worshippers at a Sunday service at a rural church in Texas, killing at least 26 people, including 12-14 children in the latest gun-related massacre to shock the country.
The 26-year-old suspect, Devin Patrick Kelley, wearing black tactical-style gear walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and started firing from an assault rifle just after the Sunday morning service began, officials said.
The victims ranged in age from 5 to 72, and among the dead were 12 to 14 children, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told reporters. Twenty people were also injured in the attack.
A pregnant woman and the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter were among the dead.
Police have identified all but one of the deceased.
Nearly everyone in the church at the time of the shooting had some type of injury, the Sheriff said.
Investigators worked through the night, and are still on the scene of the deadly shooting this morning trying to piece together exactly what happened.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott called the slaughter “the largest mass shooting” in the state’s history and ordered flags across the State to fly at half-staff.
Authorities confirmed that the church shooter was a heavily armed white male, in his 20’s, but refused to name him. But the media identified the gunman as Kelley, who was discharged from the US Air Force in 2014.
Police said the gunman crossed the street in his vehicle, got out and began firing from his rifle. He then moved to the right side of the church, continuing to fire and then into the building.
As he left, he was confronted by a resident who grabbed his rifle and then began to fire at him as he fled. He then chased the shooter who left the scene in his vehicle before leaving the road at the border with Guadalupe County.
He was found dead inside the vehicle, although authorities are not sure if the shooter died from a self- inflicted wound, or whether it was from the resident.
“The exact circumstances of the gunman’s death are still under investigation,” the Texas Department of Public Safety said.
The San Antonio FBI branch said there was no indication of the gunman’s motive. But investigators say Kelley’s in-laws attended the church at times but were not at the service yesterday morning. It’s not clear if he targeted the church, nearly 48 kms from San Antonio, because of this connection.
In a brief statement, the Pentagon said the suspect was an airman “at one point,” but additional details about his time in the Air Force were not immediately available. (PTI)