At least 26 dead in Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting; gunman identified

Law enforcement officers gather in front of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs after a fatal shooting, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

(Sinclair Broadcast Group) -- At least 26 are dead and 20 are injured after a man dressed in black entered First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas armed with a rifle and opened fire on its congregation Sunday, Gov. Greg Abbott said at a press conference.

Those shot range from 5 to 72 years old, officials said at the conference. Abbott called it the "worst mass shooting" in the state's history.

It is too early to determine a motive, officials said. Rather, law enforcement is focused on "the victims and families at this point," District Attorney Audrey Lewis said at a press conference.

"In dark times...we pull together," President Donald Trump said at his first public appearance since the massacre. "Through the tears and through the sadness, we stand strong; oh so strong."

The gunman entered the church and began shooting at approximately 11:20 a.m., officials said. He was followed and shot by a person inside the church, and after a chase by police was found deceased in his car.

The wounded individuals were transported to San Antonio Medical Center and University Hospital in San Antonio, officials said. A spokesperson for University Hospital in San Antonio told SBG San Antonio that at least five adults and four children are being treated there/

Law enforcement officials identified the gunman as Devin Patrick Kelley, age 26, of neighboring Comal County, The Associated Press reported. His house is to be searched shortly, officials said.

It is not yet known whether he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound or from shots fired by officers, officials said. They are working to determine his motive.

Pastor of nearby River Oaks Church Paul Buford told reporters that families of the victims would be gathering at his church's community center, just two blocks up the street. He told SBG San Antonio that the pastor of First Baptist Church, Frank Pomery, and his wife were not at the church when the shooting occurred; they were out of town, and are now on their way back.

Wife Sherri Pomeroy says the couple's 14-year-old daughter was among those killed in a mass shooting at the church. She wrote in a text message to The Associated Press that she lost her daughter "and many friends" in the Sunday shooting.

"As a state, we are facing the largest mass shooting in Texas history," Gov. Greg Abbott said at a press conference. "We mourn their loss; we support their family members.

This will be a long, suffering mourning for those in pain. We ask for God's comfort, for God's guidance, and God's healing for all those who are suffering.

The Red Cross is on hand to assist those affected, Abbott said. He also reported speaking with President Donald Trump by phone, who is monitoring the situation from Asia.

Eyewitnesses report witnessing several people get shot, according to SBG San Antonio. Their graphic accounts flooded social media Sunday.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott responded to Sunday's shooting shortly after, taking to Twitter to write: "Our prayers are with all who were harmed by this evil act. Our thanks to law enforcement for their response."

ATF says that special agents from their Houston and San Antonio offices are on the scene of the shooting. A bomb squad also made its way to the scene.

“The thoughts and prayers of all Texans are with the people of Sutherland Springs as tragic reports come out of First Baptist Church," Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement to SBG San Antonio. "My office stands ready to assist local law enforcement as needed. Please join Angela and me as we pray for those impacted by this horrific shooting.”

A photo captured near the scene showed police officers blocking off a road to the scene. Chopper footage from SBG San Antonio illustrated numerous first response vehicles nearby.

The First Baptist Church and nearby River Oaks Church have worked together for years, Pastor Buford said. He told SBG San Antonio that he knows everyone in the First Baptist Church.

Sutherland Springs is an unincorporated community in northern Wilson county about 35 miles east of downtown San Antonio. Its population was 362 in 2000; now it's 400.

A woman who lives about 10 minutes away from Sutherland Springs in Floresville and was monitoring the chaos on a police scanner and in Facebook community groups told The Associated Press that everyone knows everyone in the sparsely populated county.

"This is horrific for our tiny little tight-knit town," said Alena Berlanga. "Everybody's going to be affected and everybody knows someone who's affected," she said.

There are 11 hotels in the area. There used to be a 52-floor facility, but it closed in 1923.

The church is a white, wood-framed building with a double-door at the entrance and a Texas flag on a pole at the front area, according to its website, which was down shortly after the shooting. The website says the church schedule was for a fellowship breakfast on Sunday mornings, followed by Sunday School.

A morning worship service was scheduled for 11 a.m. The first news reports of the shooting were between noon and 12:30 p.m.

First Baptist Church Facebook group has 120 members. It usually films its services; however, footage from Sunday has not been posted.

This is a developing story; check back for updates.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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