At least two dozen people were killed and more than two dozen injured when a gunman walked into a Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday morning and opened fire.
County officials put the preliminary death toll at 26 with another thirty people wounded.
A pregnant woman was among the dead … as was a five-year-old child. Meanwhile another five-year-old boy who was shot four times is reportedly among those wounded.
The gunman – whom witnesses say reloaded his Ruger rifle multiple times during the rampage – was confirmed dead by local law enforcement within an hour of the attack after a brief police pursuit.
Police identified the shooter as 26-year-old Devin Kelley of New Braunfels, Texas.
The shooting took place at around 11:20 a.m. local time at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs – an unincorporated community of approximately 350 people located in Wilson County, Texas (roughly 40 miles southeast of San Antonio).
Wearing all black tactical gear, Kelley reportedly began his shooting rampage outside of the church before moving inside the building and opening fire. Additional shots were fired when he emerged from the building and was confronted by a “local citizen” armed with their own weapon.
Kelley fled the scene in a vehicle – but didn’t get far.
“The local citizen pursued him,” a state law enforcement spokesman told members of the media. “We don’t know if it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound or if he was shot by our local resident who engaged him in a gunfight.”
Either way, Kelley was found dead of a gunshot wound in neighboring Guadalupe County about eleven miles from the church.
According to reporter Max Massey of KSAT TV 12 (ABC – San Antonio), the church usually draws around fifty parishioners for Sunday morning worship services. Massey reported seeing at least six helicopters transporting victims from the church in the aftermath of the shooting.
Sunday’s attack is by far the deadliest church shooting in American history, surpassing the 2015 “Holy City Massacre” at the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina.
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“You never expect something like this,” county commissioner Albert Gamez Jr. told CNN. “My heart is broken.”
Officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDPS) are supporting local law enforcement in their investigation of the attack.
Meanwhile several nearby medical facilities – including University Hospital in San Antonio and Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston – were reportedly treating individuals wounded in the shooting.
“This act of evil occurred as the victims and their families were in their place of sacred worship,” Trump added in a statement. “We cannot put into words the pain and grief we all feel and we cannot begin to imagine the suffering of those who lost the ones they love.”
Abbott indicated he was traveling to Sutherland Springs to meet with first responders and family members.
In a decidedly different response to the tragedy, liberal comedienne Chelsea Handler tweeted that “Republicans” were to blame for the attack.
“Innocent people go to church on Sunday to honor their God, and while doing so, get shot (and) killed,” Handler tweeted. “What country? America. Why? Republicans.”
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