Gunman opens fire at Texas church, killing at least 20
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas - A gunman entered a small church in southeast Texas and opened fire, killing at least 20 worshipers and wounding many others in the latest in a series of mass shootings that have plagued the United States, according to authorities and media reports.
The shooting occurred at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in Wilson County, about 40 miles (65 km) east of San Antonio.
The suspect fled the scene in a vehicle but was killed about 12 miles away in neighboring Guadalupe County, according to local media and Sergeant Robert Murphy, a spokesman for the Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office said.
Neither the suspect’s identity nor any possible motive was disclosed by authorities.
Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told CNN that at least 20 people were killed. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick told Fox News that at least 25 people were killed and 30 injured.
The 14-year-old daughter of pastor Frank Pomeroy was killed, the family told several television stations.
The massacre comes just weeks after a sniper killed 58 people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The shootings have stirred a years-long national debate over whether easy access to firearms was contributing to the trend.
President Donald Trump said he was monitoring the situation while in Japan on a 12-day Asian trip.
“May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene,” he said on Twitter.
According to the witnesses, about 20 shots rang out about 11:30 a.m. (1730 GMT) during the church services, according to media reports. It was unclear how many worshippers were inside at the time.
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, Wiley told Reuters. He did not know if the shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot or was killed by deputies.
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 U.S. 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.
The shooting occurred on the eighth anniversary of the Nov. 5, 2009, massacre of 13 people at the Fort Hood Army base in central Texas. A U.S. Army Medical Corps psychiatrist convicted of the killings is now awaiting execution.
In 2015, a white gunman killed nine black parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The gunman was sentenced to death for the racially motivated attack.