Gunman Kills 26 at Texas Church, Injures 20 More Following Family Dispute
On Sunday, November 5, the First Baptist Church in the town of Sutherland Springs, Texas, became the site of the latest mass shooting in America. This time, a man identified by police as Devin Patrick Kelley entered the church during morning service and opened fire, killing 26 people and wounding 20 more.
“He was just spraying at the front of the church,” according to witness Kevin Jordan, who was in his yard near the church. “He was shooting outside at first, and then he walked to the door and started shooting inside.”
Following the massacre inside, Kelley apparently exited the church carrying a rifle. Stephen Willeford, who lived across the street had heard the gunfire, confronted Kelley and shot him. Kelley then got into his SUV and drove off. Another man, Johnny Langendorff, had been driving by the scene. He stopped and picked up Willeford, and the two raced after Kelley’s SUV.
“He briefed me quickly on what had just happened and said he had to get him,” Langendorff said of Willeford, who joined him in his vehicle. “So that’s what I did.”
Authorities say that Kelley shot himself after crashing his car in the subsequent high-speed chase away from the church. He may have also called his father, telling him that he did not think he would survive. Kelley then died from his injuries, though it is unclear whether it was the self-inflicted wound, the car wreck or the previous gunshot he sustained that ultimately led to his death, perhaps a combination of all three.
According to investigators, Kelley (right, photo courtesy of Texas Dept. of Public Safety) had previously been involved in a dispute with his relatives. His mother-in-law was a member of the First Baptist Church, though she was not there Sunday morning. “This was not racially motivated, it wasn’t over religious beliefs,” Freeman Martin of the Texas Department of Public Safety told reporters. “There was a domestic situation going on within the family and the in-laws.”
Kelley was dishonorably discharged from the Air Force in 2014. He had been court-martialed in 2012 following an assault on his wife and child, then served a year in military prison. His bad-conduct discharge should have prevented him from purchasing a gun. Police found numerous weapons in Kelley’s car, though it is unknown how he acquired them.
Among the victims at the church is 14-year-old Annabelle Pomeroy, daughter of the church’s pastor, who was out of town at the time of the shooting:
This is 14-year-old Annabelle Pomeroy. Her father is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. She was 1 of today's victims. pic.twitter.com/DwDHaUuRu0
— Jessie (@JMKTV) November 5, 2017
The guest pastor, Bryan Holcombe, was killed as he approached the pulpit, according to witnesses. His wife, Karla, and son, Marc Daniel, also died at the scene. Bryan’s parents, Joe and Claryce, described the full breadth of the tragedy to The Washington Post:
Marc Daniel had an infant daughter, Noah Holcombe, who, was a year old, Joe Holcombe said. She is dead, too.
Another son of Bryan and Karla, John Holcombe, survived, but his wife, Crystal Holcombe, who was pregnant, did not.
Crystal had five children. Three of them, Emily, Megan and Greg, died. The two others survived.
That’s eight members of the extended Holcombe family dead, in addition to the unborn baby.
A full list of the victims, whose ages ranged from 18 months to 77 years, is not yet available.