Devin P. Kelley, who was court martialed from the U.S. Air Force, was identified as the gunman who walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday morning and murdered at least 26 people, wounding many more in the tiny, rural community near San Antonio.
The shooter’s name was reported through sources by The New York Times and CBS News; the latter gave his name as Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, of New Braunfels, Texas and said the Air Force court martial occurred only three years ago. Although the motive was not yet clear, the gunman’s background includes religious school work, but he also liked pages devoted to atheism. The shooter, who is dead, left behind disturbing social media posts, including a Facebook page that showed off a rifle, calling it a “bad b*tch.”
Authorities revealed that a heroic and unidentified citizen in the church “grabbed his rifle and confronted the suspect,” who was armed with a “Ruger AR assault type rifle.” The local citizen pursued the suspect, who ran off the road and crashed and was found deceased in his vehicle. “We don’t know if it was a self inflicted gunshot wound or if he was shot by our local resident who engaged him with gunfire,” authorities said. It was the largest mass shooting in Texas history.
The horrific mass shooting wounded almost everyone inside the small country church building, which held only about 50 people in the town of only a few hundred people. The victims ranged in age from 5 to 72, authorities said. “This will be a long suffering mourning for those in pain,” said Governor Greg Abbott, confirming that 26 people had died. Authorities would not confirm the suspect’s name, and they said they were investigating, but could not confirm, reports of possible militia ties.
As many as 30 other people were injured, reported an ABC producer. A KSAT-TV reporter at the scene said that an “ambu-bus” had responded, which is used to transport multiple victims. Pregnant women and young children were reportedly among the victims, including the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor, who was out of town when the mass shooting occurred. The victims were still not identified, the sheriff said in the evening press conference.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Shooter, Who Showed Off a Photo of a Rifle on Facebook, Once Taught Bible School
Kelley’s Facebook page has now been deleted, but you can see a screenshot of the weapon he posted above. His profile picture showed two small children, which was a chilling juxtaposition next to the semi-automatic rifle that was his cover photo. According to The Daily Beast, “Kelley was married and Kelley’s mother-in-law listed a P.O. box in Sutherland Springs as a mailing address. San Antonio police reportedly raided Kelley’s home on Sunday evening…he briefly taught at a summer Bible school.”
The shooter was described as a “white male in his 20s from outside San Antonio” by Mike Levine, a journalist for ABC News, who reported that law enforcement had uncovered a weapon photo on Kelley’s Facebook page. “Authorities are now scrubbing his social media; on Facebook in recent days, he showed off an AR-15 style-looking gun,” Levine wrote.
Devin Kelley’s LinkedIn page says that he was a VBS “teacher aid (sic)” for “VBS AT KINGSVILLE FBC” and notes, “Dates volunteered Jun 2013 – Jun 2013 Volunteer duration 1 mo. Cause Children. Teaching children ages 4-6 at vocational bible schools helping their minds grow and prosper.” However, multiple children are reportedly among those shot in the church. Kelley’s Facebook page also showed that he had liked pages devoted to atheism, as well as those on German Shepherds, Glocks, and karate.
Kelley had recently shaved a beard, he wrote on Facebook recently.
Reporter Matt Massey wrote that “neighbors say they heard shooter may have reloaded multiple times, around 50 people usually at service.” He reported that at least six helicopters were called in to transport victims.
According to CNN, “The shooter was killed after a brief chase north into neighboring Guadalupe County,” according to Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Robert Murphy.
2. The Gunman, Who Is From Comal County, Once Wrote That He Lived By the Air Force’s ‘Core Values’
The LinkedIn page in the shooter’s name shows that Devin Kelley served in the U.S. Air Force “from his 2009 high-school graduation until 2013,” The Daily Beast reported. According to The New York Times, Kelley is from Comal County. His motive and why he targeted the Wilson County church remain unclear. Comal County is located northeast of San Antonio, Texas. The Daily Beast reported that Kelley was a “resident of New Braunfels, a suburb of San Antonio.”
Kelley’s LinkedIn page says, under the entry for U.S. Air Force, “Cargo, demand and supply , distribution.” He added, “Basic learning on my contracted job.” The page says he attended New Braunfels High School from 2003 to 2009, receiving his diploma. His LinkedIn page also says, “I am a hard working dedicated person. I live by the core values on which the Air Force go by.”
However, CBS News reported that the suspect is former “US Air Force E1 (2010-2014). He received a dishonorable discharge. He was court martialed in May 2014.”
The scene outside the church was heartbreaking as crying family members of loved ones gathered outside, desperate for information about them, and praying. A local hospital has reported receiving multiple victims. The ATF was responding to the scene, as did the FBI. Authorities had said very little in the hour immediately after the shooting because they were dealing with the mass casualty event. However, just before 6 p.m., the governor and other officials held a news conference.
“Sheriff Joe Tackitt confirmed that there were multiple casualties and multiple fatalities. The shooter has been taken down,” reported Wilson County News. Other reports said police shot the suspect, although this was not confirmed. Videos and photos posted to social media showed a massive law enforcement response to the scene.
Texas Governor Abbott condemned the “evil act,” writing on Twitter, “Our prayers are with all who were harmed by this evil act. Our thanks to law enforcement for their response. More details from DPS soon.” CNN reported that a “witness, a cashier at a gas station across the street from the church, said she heard about 20 shots being fired in quick succession while a church service was underway around 11:30 a.m. local time.”
3. The Gunman Was Dressed All in Black & He Wrote That He Did Not Fear Death
Devin Kelley’s social media accounts contained other warnings. His Facebook page contained a quote from Mark Twain about not fearing death. “I do not fear death,” it read. “I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”
Authorities say the gunman approached the church around 11:20 a.m., “he was seen dressed in all black. He started firing at the church. He moved to the right side of the church and continued to fire, then he went in the church.” He was “dressed all in black tactical type gear and was wearing a ballistic vest,” said authorities in a press conference. Multiple weapons were found in Kelley’s vehicle.
Witness accounts agreed on this: The male suspect walked into the church and opened fire. “A man in full gear came into the church and unloaded several rounds, and then took off in a vehicle,” a KSAT-TV reporter said in a live report on Facebook Live. The FBI was at the scene after the tragedy unfolded. It was later reported that Kelley might have been wearing combat gear.
People on Twitter and Facebook wrote within minutes that a man, possibly with an assault rifle, had shot multiple people. People posted frantic messages on social media about loved ones. Witnesses reported that the man walked into the church around 11:30 a.m. Sunday and opened fire, KSAT-TV reported, adding, “The church is located in the 500 block of 4th Street in the small, south Texas town about 40 miles east of San Antonio.” (Recent population figures said the town has only 362 people.)
Assault rifle reports, which are not yet confirmed, originated on social media. “Oh my God if you live in Sutherland Springs or Wilson County please go in side and stay safe. My family just called me freaking out because across the street from their house a guy with an assault rifle started shooting in our town church and even shot my brothers house. If ur from my hometown go inside, lock ur doors and so be safe and I love you all,” wrote one woman on Facebook.
4. Multiple Children Were Among the Victims, Including the Pastor’s Teenage Daughter
Horrifically, early reports say that a small toddler is among the victims. “A witness at the scene reported a 2-year-old was also shot,” reported KENS5. The child’s condition was not clear. There was no official word on the number of casualties.
The toll on children was horrific:
Another man said that people he knew were inside the church. He wrote on Facebook, “Just got a call from (named removed) prayers needed for Sutherland Springs community. Someone went into the Baptist Church and shot 15 people. The guy is one the run and they have the roads closed down. (Names removed) were at their church in LaVernia. Please keep prayers going.”
Some accounts on social media said there might be more than one shooter. However, authorities believe Kelley was the only shooter. Pastor Frank Pomeroy oversees the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Pomeroy’s wife, Sherri, told NBC News that her husband was out of town during the shooting, but their daughter was inside. Frank Pomeroy later told ABC News that their daughter, Annabelle, 14, was one of those killed. Pomeroy described Annabelle as “one very beautiful special child” to ABC News.
5. People Wrote Frightened Messages on Social Media As News of the Shooting Broke
The news of the shooting broke first on social media as citizens with instant access to a national audience reported that their loved ones were in peril or had witnessed aspects of the shooting or its aftermath.
“I’m hearing there was a shooting at the First Baptist Church on 539 near Hartfield Rd in the Sutherland Springs area. Lots of sheriff’s deputies on scene, blocking traffic. EMS from all over Wilson County have been called in. Multiple victims,” one social media user wrote. Another man wrote on Facebook, “A bunch of people have been shot in Sutherland springs . The church and gas station people walked in and started shooting so far herd 15 dead maybe more.”
First Baptist Church, of Sutherland Springs, Texas, has posted videos of its services on YouTube.
6. Texas Shooter Was Confronted & Chased By A Man Who Lives Next To The Church
Were it not for a local resident who confronted the gunman, the deadliest shooting in Texas history could have claimed even more lives.
At a news conference Sunday night, investigators offered a preliminary timeline of the attack at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and laid out the role the resident played.
The gunman entered the small church in the rural town east of San Antonio, firing with an assault weapon at the congregation attending the morning service.
A man who lives next to the church grabbed his own rifle and engaged the gunman, said Freeman Martin, the regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“The suspect dropped his rifle, which was a Ruger AR assault-type rifle and fled from the church,” Martin said.
The man then chased the gunman, Martin said.
When police spotted the suspect’s vehicle a short time later at the county line, they found the gunman inside — dead of a bullet wound.
Police searching for explosive devices at home of Devin P. Kelley church shooter
Police are checking for explosive devices at the home of a man suspected of shooting and killing at least 25 people and wounding more than 20 in a Sutherland Springs church on Sunday.
The San Antonio Police Department is sending a K9 unit to the scene, an official told mySA.com, though it’s unclear where the home is.
This article will be updated as more is learned about the mass shooting.