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Texas Church Shooting Leaves at Least 26 Dead, Officials Say

A gunman clad in all black, with a ballistic confer impoverished to his chest and a military-style rifle in his hands, opened fire on crowed at a Sunday service at a little Baptist church in rural Texas, killing at least 26 people and passing this tiny town east of San Antonio into the arena of the country’s newest mass dread.

The gunman was classifying as Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, according to two law prosecution officials who spoke on the case of anonymity because the inquiry was continuing. Mr. Kelley, who lived in New Braunfels, Tex., died soon after the attack.

He had served in the Air Force at a paltry in New Mexico but was court-martialed in 2012 on charges of offensive his wife and child. He was blamed to 12 months’ custody and received a “bad conduct” parole in 2014, according to Ann Stefanek, the chief of Air Force media operations.

The aim for the attack was uncertain on Sunday, but the appalling nature of it could not have been clearer: Families collected in pews, griping Bibles and praying to the Lord, were murdered in cold blood on the spot.

Mr. Kelley began firing at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs not lengthy after the Sunday morning service started at 11 a.m., officials said. He was equipped with a Ruger military-style rifle, and within moments, many of those inside the little church were either dead or damaged. The casualty ranged in age from 5 to 72, and among the dead were several children, a pregnant woman and the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter. It was the bloodiest mass shooting in the state’s history. At least 20 more were damaged.

“It’s something we all say does not appear in little communities, although we found out today it does,” said Joe Tackitt, the sheriff of Wilson County, which combines Sutherland Springs.

Sheriff Tackitt and other officials said the gunman first blocked at a gas station across Highway 87 from the church. He drove across the street, got out of his car and started firing from the outside, moving to the right side of the church, the governments said. Then he entered the creating and kept firing.

The governments received their first call about a gunman at about 11:20 a.m. Officials and observers said Mr. Kelley arrived to be arranged for an offensive, with black diplomatic gear, multiple rounds of armament and a ballistic confer.

“He went there, he walked in, began shooting people and then took off,” said Representative Henry Cuellar, a Texas congressman who represents the field and who was advised by law enforcement officials.

When Mr. Kelley arrived from the church, a loaded neighbor traded gunfire with him, hitting Mr. Kelley, who fled in his vehicle. Neighbors possibly followed him, expelling him into the next nation, Guadalupe County, where Mr. Kelley smashed his car. Mr. Kelley was found dead in his vehicle. Officials said it was uncertain how Mr. Kelley had died.

At the church, he left behind a scene of crime. Of the 26 casualties, 23 people were found dead inside the church, two were found outside, and one died later at a hospital.

In nearby Floresville, hours after the attack, Scott Holcombe, 30, sat with his sister on the rein outside the emergency room at Connally Memorial Medical Center. They were both in tears. Their father, Bryan Holcombe, had been customer preaching at the church, they said, and he and their mother, Karla Holcombe, were killed.

“I’m confused,” Mr. Holcombe said, also noting that his pregnant sister-in-law, Crystal Holcombe, had been killed. “This is extraordinary. My father was a good man, and he loved to exhort. He had a good heart.”

His sister, Sarah Slavin, 33, added: “They weren’t nervous of death. They had a solid faith, so there’s enjoyment in that. I feel like my parents, especially my mom, weren’t scared.”

A parishioner, Sandy Ward, said that a daughter-in-law and three of her grandchildren were shot. Her grandson, who is 5, was shot four times and endure in surgery Sunday night. She said she was looking forward word on her other family members.

Ms. Ward said she did not visit services on Sunday because of her troubled knees and a bad hip. “I just began praying for everyone who was there” when she accomplished of the shooting, she said.

At a news conference on Sunday, Gov. Greg Abbott said that he and other Texans were asking “for God’s enjoyment, for God’s direction and for God’s healing for all those who are difficulty.”

President Trump, who was in Japan on a cruise to several Asian nations, called it a “horrific shooting.” He ordered flags flown at half-staff at the White House and all federal buildings through Thursday.

In a time of change, he said, “Americans will do what we do best: we pull together and tie hands and lock arms and through the tears and grief we stand stable.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were assisting in the inquiry, which was being led by the Texas Rangers.

The shooting unfolded on the eighth anniversary of the attack in 2009 on Fort Hood in Texas, when an Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, killed 13 people in one of the deadliest mass shootings at an American military base. Major Hasan performed his attack in an attempt to carry on jihad on American military personnel.

The death toll on Sunday also outstripped the number killed in 1966 by a student at the University of Texas at Austin, Charles Whitman, who opened fire from the school’s clock tower in a day of attack that finally killed 17.

And the shooting on Sunday appeared more than two years after Dylann S. Roof opened fire at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in June 2015, killing nine people, containing the pastor. The aim in that attack was genetic hatred — Mr. Roof, a white supremacist, plotted an offensive on a black congregation — but no aim has been settled by the authorities in the shooting in Sutherland Springs. The First Baptist Church is essentially white, and Mr. Kelley is white.

The authorities said Mr. Kelley utilized a Ruger AR-15 different — a duplication of the standard service rifle carried by the American military for practically half a century.

Almost all AR-15 variants lawfully sold in the United States fire only semi automatically, and they were covered by the federal offensive weapons ban that went into response in 1994. Since the ban expired in 2004, the weapons have been legal to sell or procedure in much of the United States, and sales of AR-15s have climbed.

Ruger’s AR-15s made for civilian markets sell for about $500 to $900, depending on the model.

Mr. Kelley develops in New Braunfels, in his parents’ nearly $1 million home, and was married in 2014. He had been married at least once before and was sued for divorce in 2012 in New Mexico, the same year he was court-martialed on charges of assaulting his wife and child.

Why he select to attack a church 30 miles abroad from his home is one of the questions that continued unanswered.

Sutherland Springs in Wilson County is about 34 miles east of downtown San Antonio, in a slow-paced field where church-going is a common part of the Sunday routine. The church marquee on Sunday vital updating from last week, reading, “Join Us, Fall Fest, Oct 31, 6 to 8 PM.”

The unincorporated community has a people that numbers in the low hundreds — the 2000 census was 362, according to the Texas State Historical Association. The prior death toll would amount to about 7 % of that population.

Joseph Silva, 49, who lives about five miles northeast of Sutherland Springs, described Sutherland Springs as “a one-blinking-light town.”

“Everyone is pretty grief-stricken,” Mr. Silva said. “Everybody’s worried.”

On Sunday night, a few moments down a pitch-black road, fatalities’ families gathered at another house of worship, the River Oaks Church. Its parking lot was full of about 50 big trucks, and parents walked into the building holding their children’s hands.

The police kept tight control over the scene, refusing to permit any reporters to enter. One man in a cowboy hat was also turned away. “They said they’re collecting to inform the families, but they’ll only let prompt family in, only if you have a wristband,” he said. A short while later, a young man rushed out to his truck, certainly upset, and raced away.

The First Baptist Church, the scene of the shooting, was also fixed off, with yellow police-line tape posted around the church grounds.

First Baptist is a small church, albeit a tech-savvy one. The service at the church last Sunday was posted on YouTube, one of several posted there. Videos posted online show lyrics to the hymns coming on television screens with parishioners playing electric guitars and a sign language interpreter translating the songs.

The video of last Sunday’s service starts with a rendition of a song called “Happiness Is the Lord.” Then the pastor, Frank Pomeroy, told his parishioners — 20 to 30 were evident in the video — to walk around the room and “shake somebody’s hand.”

“Tell them it’s good to see them in God’s house this morning,” Pastor Pomeroy said.

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