At least 25 people dead in Texas church shooting

Two law enforcement sources speaking anonymously have identified gunman


The US has been left reeling from the latest mass shooting to unfold in the country after a gunman opened fire in a Baptist church in Texas, killing at least 25 people and injuring an unconfirmed number.

A male gunman walked into the rural church in Sutherland Springs, about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio, and opened fire during a Sunday morning service, witnesses said. There were unconfirmed reports that children were killed or injured in the attack which took place around 11.30 am local time.

Two law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation, identified the gunman as Devin P Kelley (26).

Texas Representative Henry Cuellar, who said he was briefed by law enforcement authorities, said the gunman came from Comal County, which is northeast of San Antonio. “He went there, he walked in, started shooting people and then took off” to Guadalupe County, he said.

President Donald Trump, who is in Japan as part of a 12-day visit to Asia, said he was monitoring the situation. “May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan,” he said in a tweet.

There were reports that the man was killed in a neighbouring county after fleeing the scene. It is unclear if the man was killed by police or took his own life.

Rural community

Sutherland Springs is a small, rural community in rural Texas. Many of the victims were rushed to Connally Memorial Medical centre in the town of Floresville, around 18km away, while others were treated at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Sunday’s mass shooting comes five weeks after a gunman opened fire in Las Vegas, killing 59 concert-goers and injuring more than 500. The attack prompted a widespread debate about US gun laws after it emerged that the gunman, Stephen Paddock, had amassed an arsenal of legally acquired weapons, including semi-automatic rifles.

The attack was the biggest mass shooting in US history, following the Orlando nightclub shooting in June 2016 when Omar Mateen opened fire at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub, killing 49 people. Mateen was later killed in a shootout with police. Police are still searching for a motive for the Las Vegas atrocity.

Texas governor Greg Abbott described the events in Sutherland Springs as an “evil act”, while vice president Mike Pence tweeted: “Karen & I send prayers to victims & their families in TX.We grieve w/ you & stand w/ resolve against evil. Thank you to the first responders.”

The gunman was killed several miles from the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, about 65 km (40 miles) east of San Antonio, said Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Sergeant Robert Murphy.

Neither the suspect’s identity nor any possible motive have yet been disclosed by authorities.

According to witnesses, about 20 shots rang out about 11.30am local time (17.30 Irish time) during the church service.

After the shooting, the suspect sped away in a car and was soon cornered by sheriff’s deputies just outside of Wilson County in Guadalupe County, Wilson County Commissioner Larry Wiley told Reuters. He did not know if the shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot or was killed by deputies.

His colleague, Albert Gamaz jnr said he was told by an emergency medical technician that 27 people were dead and 24 others were injured. He said the victims were still inside the church.

‘Multiple’ victims

One hospital in Floresville, about 16km (10 miles) from the shooting, said they were treating “multiple” victims with gunshot wounds.

The First Baptist Church is a fixture in Sutherland Springs, an area home to fewer than 900 residents, according to the 2010 census. The white-painted, one-story structure features a small steeple and a single front door. On Sunday, the Lone Star flag of Texas was flying alongside the US flag and a third, unidentified banner.

Inside there is a small raised platform on which members sang worship songs to guitar music and the pastor delivered a weekly sermon, according to videos posted on YouTube. In one of the clips, a few dozen people, including young children, can be seen sitting in the wooden pews.

Joseph Silva (49), who lives about 8km (5 miles) northeast of Sutherland Springs, said the police had instructed his family and neighbours to stay indoors.

He described Sutherland Springs as “a one-blinking-light town”.

“There is a gas station and a post office,” he said. “That’s about all there really is.”

Mr Silva said he had been approached by a woman who said she had two loved ones at the church who were shot.

“There are a number of individuals just weeping and just wanted to know what’s happened to their loved ones,” he said.

“Everybody is pretty grief-stricken. Everyone’s worried.”

On Facebook, a user described the church: “It is such a warm and welcoming church that is truly filled with the Holy Spirit and shows real Christian love and friendship.”– additional reporting: New York Times/agencies