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Texas officials: Gunman had domestic issues with mother-in-law who attended the church

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas -- A gunman killed at least 26 people and injured about 20 others at a Texas church Sunday morning in what Gov. Greg Abbott said was the largest mass shooting in state history.

How the attack unfolded

Around 11:30 a.m. local time, a man dressed in all black exited a vehicle and started firing a rifle outside First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a Texas community of a few hundred people about 30 miles of San Antonio, said Freeman Martin, a regional director with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The man then entered the church, where services were underway, and continued to fire, Martin said.

A cashier at a gas station across the street from the church told CNN she heard about 20 shots being fired in quick succession.

Eventually, as the gunman was leaving the church, a local resident armed himself with a rifle "and engaged" the shooter, Martin said. Martin didn't say where the resident got the rifle, nor did he provide details about the engagement.

The shooter dropped his gun -- a Ruger AR "assault-type rifle" -- and fled with the resident in pursuit, Martin said.

The shooter drove north into neighboring Guadeloupe County, authorities said. Just inside that county, law enforcement officers found him dead inside his vehicle with a gunshot wound, Martin said.

Latest developments

-- Texas church gunman Devin Kelley tried to get a license to carry a gun in Texas, but the state denied him, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, citing the director of Texas' Department of Public Safety. "So how was it that he was able to get a gun? By all the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun," Abbott told CNN's Chris Cuomo. "So how did this happen?"

-- Texas church gunman Devin Patrick Kelley received a non-commissioned security officer registration from Texas Department of Public Safety that was issued on June 8, according to TOPS (Texas Online Private Security) records, via Texas DPS. The registration would have expired on June 8, 2019. Kelley's registration is affiliated with Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort. CNN has reached out to Schlitterbahn to determine if Kelley recently worked for the park, but has yet to hear back.

-- The gunman who killed 26 people at a Texas church Sunday was shot by an armed resident before he shot himself, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told CNN.

-- The gunman in Sunday's church mass shooting had in-laws who attended the church -- but those in-laws were not present at the time of the massacre, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told CNN affiliate Spectrum News Austin. The in-laws came to the church after hearing about the shooting Sunday. The attack in Sutherland Springs left 26 people dead, included the visiting pastor, Tackitt said. "I think nearly everyone had some type of injury," the sheriff said.

-- Using a rifle, the gunman shot victims between the ages of 5 to 72 years old, said Freeman Martin, a regional director with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

-- At least eight of the people killed were members of one family, according to a relative and a community leader. A woman who was about five months pregnant and three of her children were killed. The pregnant woman's brother-in-law -- her husband's brother -- and his young child were also killed, according to the community leader. Three other members of the same family were injured. CNN is not naming the victims at this time, as it is not yet confirmed that their next-of-kin have been notified.

-- Among those killed included the 14-year-old daughter of the church's pastor, according to Sherri Pomeroy, the girl's mother. Her parents were traveling out of state when the shooting occurred.

--The shooter fled the church, was chased and later found dead in his vehicle, officials said.

-- A witness told CNN affiliate KSAT that he and an armed resident had pursued the gunman in a car chase.

-- Speaking from Japan, President Donald Trump expressed condolences for the victims during a Monday news conference and said he believes the shooting was caused by a "mental health problem," not an issue with US gun laws.

Who is the shooter?

The suspected shooter has been identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, according to two law enforcement sources who have been briefed on the investigation.

Police have not officially identified Kelley as the shooter, but described the suspect as a white man in his 20s. Authorities have not said what may have motivated him.

Kelley was a member of the US Air Force and served at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge, according to Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.
Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 for assault on his spouse and assault on their child, according to Stefanek. Kelley served a year in confinement and received a bad conduct discharge, the spokeswoman said. His rank was also reduced, she said.

In April 2016, Kelley purchased the Ruger AR-556 rifle he allegedly used in the shooting from Academy Sports & Outdoors store in San Antonio, Texas, a law enforcement official said. There was no disqualifying information in the background check that was done when he was trying to buy the rifle, a law enforcement official told CNN.

Kelley listed a Colorado Springs, Colorado, address when he bought the gun.

Casualties

Of the 26 who have died, 23 were found dead inside the church. Two bodies were found outside. One person died after being transported to a hospital, Martin said.

Among the dead is the 14-year-old daughter of the church's pastor, Frank Pomeroy, according to his wife, Sherri Pomeroy, the girl's mother. The couple were traveling out of state when the shooting occurred.

At least eight of those killed were members of one family, according to a family member and a community leader who both spoke to CNN.

One of the deceased was about 5 months pregnant, and three of her children were killed. The pregnant woman's brother-in-law -- her husband's brother -- and a young child were also killed, according to the community leader.

An additional 3 members of the same family were injured in the church shooting, according to the community leader. The family member tells CNN that one of them was shot in the head.

About 20 people were taken to hospitals with injuries ranging from minor to severe, Martin said. At least four hospitals received patients from the shooting.

Victims ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old, Martin said. It wasn't immediately clear if that included just those who died, or all who were shot.

Authorities didn't immediately release the names of the dead and injured.

The community

Sutherland Springs is in Wilson County, about 30 miles east of San Antonio.

"My heart is broken," Wilson County Commissioner Albert Gamez Jr. told CNN. "We never think where it can happen, and it does happen. It doesn't matter where you're at. In a small community, real quiet and everything, and look at this."

Dana Fletcher, who owns a business down the road from the church, told CNN's Fredricka Whitfield that Sutherland Springs is a "very small" but "very tight-knit community."

"There's two gas stations, the church, a community center, post office, a Dollar General, a tire shop," she said. "That's about it."

Local coverage from KSAT

The FBI is on the scene of the shooting, according to Michelle Lee, spokeswoman for the FBI's San Antonio field office. Agents from the San Antonio field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are en route to the scene, a law enforcement source said.

About 100 family members of victims gathered in a community center next to the church, waiting for news of their loved ones, 26-year-old David Flores told CNN. Local law enforcement, the FBI and the Red Cross were also at the community center.

"My dad saw the gunman run into the church building and then he heard shots and saw people running," Flores told CNN. "People covered in blood and screaming. It was pandemonium everywhere."

"Looking around, it's very sorrowful and the pastors from all the local churches right now are just trying to console everybody," said Flores when asked to describe the scene inside the community center.

Local coverage from KABB

"There were several children injured," he said. "I know three, personally, who are in critical condition."

The church

According to the church's website, congregants meet around 9:15 a.m. on Sundays for breakfast before Sunday school and the morning church service at 11 a.m. The sanctuary where the shooting occurred is small, with wooden pews and red carpeting.

Last Sunday, a small praise team led the congregation in a rendition of "Happiness is the Lord," according to a video of the service posted on the church's Facebook page.

Later in the service, Pastor Pomeroy read scripture from Proverbs: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."

"Lean on the Lord ... leaning into God is the way we should go," he said, "because God's got it figured out whether we do or not."

Photos on the church's page show happy moments in the lives of parishioners: children playing in an inflatable castle and adults and children dressed in costumes during last week's Fall Festival, held on Halloween.

There will be a vigil Sunday night at 7 p.m. at the Sutherland Springs post office, according to Debra Morales, a volunteer coordinating relief efforts for victims' family members.

"We have never had this happen before," Morales said. "It's all just very upsetting."

The shooter and the investigation

The church attacker was Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, according to two law enforcement sources who have been briefed on the investigation.

Without naming Kelley, Martin described the shooter as a young white male who was dressed in all-black "tactical-type gear" and wearing a ballistic vest. Multiple weapons were inside the vehicle, he said.

Martin said Sunday evening that he couldn't announce any information about a motive in the shooting.

Kelley previously was a member of the US Air Force. He served in logistics readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico starting in 2010, according to Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.

Kelley was charged in military court in 2012 on suspicion of assaulting his spouse and their child, Stefanek said. Kelley received a bad conduct discharge, confinement for 12 months, and was demoted to E-1, or airman basic, she said.

Kelley purchased the gun he used, a Ruger AR-556 rifle, in April 2016 from an Academy Sports + Outdoors store in San Antonio, a law enforcement official told CNN. He listed an address in Colorado Springs, Colorado, when he bought the rifle, the official said.

When Kelley filled out background-check paperwork at the store, he checked a box to indicate he didn't have any disqualifying criminal history, the official said.

There was no disqualifying information that showed up in Devin Kelley's background check as he was trying to buy the rifle, a law enforcement official told CNN.

The FBI responded to the scene of the shooting, according to Michelle Lee, spokeswoman for the FBI's San Antonio field office.

Reaction

President Donald Trump, who was in Japan, condemned the shooting as an "act of evil" and called it "horrific."

"This act of evil occurred as the victims and their families were in their place of sacred worship. We cannot put into words the pain and grief we all feel and we cannot begin to imagine the suffering of those who lost the ones they love," Trump said Monday morning at the top of his previously scheduled remarks to business leaders at the US embassy in Tokyo.

On Twitter, the President said: "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."

Abbott, Texas' governor, said the state would mourn the dead and support their families.

"As governor, I ask for every mom and dad at home tonight, that you put your arm around your kid and give your kid a big hug, and let them know how much you love them," Abbott said at a news conference Sunday evening,

US Sen. John Cornyn of Texas called the news "truly heartbreaking" in a tweet Sunday. "Please say a prayer for First Baptist congregation, first responders & the community there," he said.

Abbott and others attended a vigil Sunday night at the Sutherland Springs post office.

"We have never had this happen before," said Debra Morales, a volunteer coordinating relief efforts for victims' family members. "It's all just very upsetting."

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) issued the following statement:

“I share the horror, heartbreak and shame felt tonight as the nation endures yet another massacre of innocent lives. Prayers are important, but insufficient. Congress is complicit in this unspeakable tragedy through its inexcusable inaction. Enough is enough-- now is the time for common sense gun violence prevention measures.”

Governor Malloy said,

“This morning a church community in Texas gathered to pray in peace and now we pray for the deceased, the injured, and their friends and families. Sutherland Springs now joins a club which no one wishes to join, a club made up of cities and towns ravaged by senseless gun violence—communities such as Littleton, Virginia Tech, Charleston, Orlando, Las Vegas, Newtown, and so many others. For the sake of all communities across the country, this madness of mass shootings needs to end once and for all. Congress needs to finally take up and pass commonsense gun control measures so that tragedies like this one never happen again. Connecticut will make any resources and expertise that we can provide available to those affected by this latest act of mass violence.”

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) released a statement on Sunday after multiple people were killed and injured in a shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas:

"The paralysis you feel right now – the impotent helplessness that washes over you as news of another mass slaughter scrolls across the television screen – isn’t real. It's a fiction created and methodically cultivated by the gun lobby, designed to assure that no laws are passed to make America safer, because those laws would cut into their profits. My heart sunk to the pit of my stomach, once again, when I heard of today's shooting in Texas. My heart dropped further when I thought about the growing macabre club of families in Las Vegas and Orlando and Charleston and Newtown, who have to relive their own day of horror every time another mass killing occurs.

“None of this is inevitable. I know this because no other country endures this pace of mass carnage like America. It is uniquely and tragically American. As long as our nation chooses to flood the county with dangerous weapons and consciously let those weapons fall into the hands of dangerous people, these killings will not abate.

“As my colleagues go to sleep tonight, they need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters, and city streets. Ask yourself – how can you claim that you respect human life while choosing fealty to weapons-makers over support for measures favored by the vast majority of your constituents.

“My heart breaks for Sutherland Springs. Just like it still does for Las Vegas. And Orlando. And Charleston. And Aurora. And Blacksburg. And Newtown. Just like it does every night for Chicago. And New Orleans. And Baltimore. And Bridgeport. The terrifying fact is that no one is safe so long as Congress chooses to do absolutely nothing in the face of this epidemic. The time is now for Congress to shed its cowardly cover and do something."