During a Sunday morning church service in the small-town of Sutherland Springs, a man dressed in all black with a skull-face mask disrupted worship with gunfire, killing at least 26 and injuring more than 20 attendees.
This tragedy marks one of the deadliest mass shootings in the state of Texas. The ages of those who died range from 18 months to 77 years old.
Authorities identified the gunman as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, a former member of the U.S. Air Force and graduate of New Braunfels High School. The incident was reported as a “domestic situation,” and not an attack on religious beliefs, according to Freeman Martin, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety. Kelley sent multiple threats to his in-laws who attended the church, but were absent at the service that morning.
“We know he had made threatening texts, and we can’t go into detail into that domestic situation,” Martin said. “This was not racially motivated. It wasn’t over religious beliefs.”
During a press conference, Sheriff Joe Tackitt of Wilson County said Kelley fired several shots outside the church before entering. Tackitt said the gunman fired during the worship service, turned around and opened fire on his way back out the front door. Tackitt told reporters that members were trapped in the congregation with no way out.
An armed-resident in the neighborhood fired shots at the gunman. Kelley fled the scene in his car and was chased down by authorities. It is still unclear what caused Kelley’s death, and police are continuing investigation.
Three firearms were recovered from Kelley—an AR-15 and two handguns.
Texas officials reported that Kelley was dishonorably discharged after being court-marshaled in 2012 for assaulting his wife and child. This discharge prohibits the purchase of personal fire-arms.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is questioning how Kelley had access to guns if he was denied a right-to-carry permit. Texas officials said the weapons were fraudulently purchased by Kelley.
Investigators are continuing to determine the motive of Kelley’s attack.
Bri Watkins, managing editor, contributed to this story. This is a developing story, and we will continue to update as more information is uncovered. Information in this article was contributed by police and Texas authorities, and may be subject to change upon further investigation.