26 killed in deadliest mass shooting in Texas history: governor

Gunman is said to be a young male in his early 20s

A gunman who opened fire at a small Texas church on Sunday has killed 26 people and wounded at least 20.

No name has been released and no motive identified for the gunman who was either killed or killed himself following the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.

“We believe he’s a young white male, maybe in his early 20s, dressed in all black tactical type gear,” said Texas Department of Public Safety regional director Freeman Martin.

“He was wearing a ballistic vest.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot confirmed the number of dead and said he had already spoken to President Donald Trump and both of Texas’ senators.

“We are dealing with the largest mass shooting in our state’s history,” he said during a press conference Sunday afternoon.

The governor said his thoughts and prayers were with the victims and that “the details of this horrific act are still under investigation.”

Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt Jr. thanked the public for their outpouring of support.

“We don’t have any names of any of the victims,” he said. “We’re still trying to work the crime scene.”

Martin said that the shooter was first spotted at a gas station across the street from the church at 11 a.m. local time (9 a.m. PST). This was confirmed after the shooting took place, not before, authorities noted.

He then crossed the street to the church, exited his vehicle and began firing at the church from the outside before entering the building as he continued to shoot.

“As he exited the church, a local resident grabbed his rifle and engaged the suspect,” said Martin.

“The suspect dropped his rifle – which was an… AR assault-type rifle – and fled from the church.”

The local resident followed the suspect as he got into his car and drove off before veering off the road.

The suspect was found dead in his vehicle, although law enforcement could not confirm how he died.

The shooting, which took place at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, is the second mass shooting in the U.S. in less than two months. On Oct. 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500.

The community of Sutherland Springs, where the population numbers in the hundreds, is a small unincorporated area in Wilson County approximately 30 miles southeast of San Antonio.

The wounded were taken to hospitals. Video on KSAT television showed first responders taking a stretcher from the church to a waiting AirLife helicopter. Some victims were taken by medical helicopter to the Brooke Army Medical Center, the station said.

Megan Posey, a spokeswoman for Connally Memorial Medical Center, which is in Floresville and about 10 miles from the church, said “multiple” victims were being treated for gunshot wounds. She declined to give a specific number but said it was less than a dozen.

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, said 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.

President Trump, currently in Japan, tweeted to say that the FBI was investigating the shooting.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also offered his thoughts and prayers, adding that “my office stands ready to assist local law enforcement as needed.”

Condolences are pouring in on the church’s Facebook page:

– with files from The Canadian Press


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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