Texas church shooting: what we know

By AFP   November 6, 2017 | 05:57 pm PT
Texas church shooting: what we know
Heather Cooper, 8, leaves after placing her favorite doll on a row of crosses for each victim, after a mass shooting that killed 26 people in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 6, 2017. A gunman wearing all black armed with an assault rifle opened fire on a small-town Texas church during Sunday morning services, killing 26 people and wounding 20 more in the last mass shooting to shock the United States. Photo by AFP/Mark Ralston
Gunman was a 26-year-old atheist and former member of the U.S. air force.

A gunman wearing all black armed with an assault rifle opened fire on a small-town Texas church during Sunday morning services, killing 26 people and wounding 20 more in the latest mass shooting to shock the United States.

Here's what we know so far about the attack.

What happened

The gunman opened fire with an assault rifle on Sunday morning at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a rural community of about 400 people located 30 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio.

A local resident exchanged shots with Kelley when he exited the church, wounding him, according to authorities.

The resident who fired at Kelley, identified in media reports as plumber Stephen Willeford, then gave chase along with Johnnie Langendorff, who happened to be driving by in his truck.

Langendorff said they reached speeds of 95 miles per hour (150 kilometers per hour) as they chased Kelley's SUV for around 10 to 12 minutes, updating police dispatchers by phone as they drove.

The chase ended when Kelley crashed into a ditch, after which his pursuers waited at the scene for police to arrive.

Authorities said Kelley apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound following the attack.


The dead ranged in age from 18 months to 77, while 20 people were wounded, 10 of whom were in critical condition on Monday.

Eight members of one family were reportedly killed in the attack, which also claimed the life of Annabelle Renee Pomeroy, the 14-year-old daughter of pastor Frank Pomeroy.

She "was one very beautiful, special child," her father told ABC News.

Other victims 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.

The attacker 

The gunman, 26-year-old Devin Kelley, was a militant atheist and former member of the air force with a history of domestic violence.

Kelley ranted against God, believers and organized religion on Facebook, but his only apparent links to the church he attacked were his in-laws, who had previously attended but were not present the day of the shooting.

The air force said Kelley served at a base in New Mexico starting in 2010 before being court-martialed in 2012 for allegedly assaulting his wife and child.

He was sentenced to 12 months in confinement and received a "bad conduct" discharge, air force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told AFP. He was discharged in 2014, and subsequently found work as a private security guard.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the shooting was a "random act," while Freeman Martin of the Texas Department of Public Safety said that "there was a domestic situation going on with the family and in-laws," and the shooter had "expressed anger towards his mother-in-law."

How he got the guns 

Kelley was armed with a Ruger assault rifle and two pistols -- a .22 from the same company and a Glock 9mm -- raising questions about how he obtained the weapons.

Governor Abbott said Kelley was denied a gun permit -- an apparent reference to a concealed carry license, as Texas does not require permits for gun ownership -- and said the shooter should not have been able to purchase firearms under current law.

U.S. law bars licensed dealers from selling firearms to people with domestic violence convictions and dishonorable military discharges, but there are several possible scenarios for how he obtained the guns.

Kelley may have owned some or all of the guns prior to his conviction, or he could have bought them through private sellers, which are not required to conduct background checks -- a major loophole in current regulations.

Kelley also may have been convicted of an offense other than domestic violence as a result of the assault allegations, which could have kept it from raising red flags, and "bad conduct" is a lesser category of discharge than "dishonorable," meaning it may not have prevented him from buying guns.

If the guns were borrowed or stolen, that would also avoid the background check obstacle.

Grim series of shootings 

Sunday's attack was one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent times.

It came just five weeks after the worst shooting in modern U.S. history, when a gunman in Las Vegas fired down from a hotel room onto an outdoor concert, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds.

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