SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas — Texas church gunman Devin Kelley had domestic problems, and Sunday his mother-in-law had attended the church he targeted, said Freeman Martin of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
He was a former member of the United States Air Force, had been convicted at court-martial and jailed for domestic abuse, kicked out of the military, divorced and charged with animal cruelty.
Martin said that Kelley’s mother-in-law had received threatening messages from him.
Authorities say Kelley fatally shot 26 people Sunday at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. The victims ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years old.
After Kelley left the church, he was shot by a nearby citizen, officials said. Kelley called his father and said he did not think he was going to make it, Martin said. Kelley then shot himself.
“We know that his ex-in-laws or in-laws came to church here from time to time,” Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told Monday. “They were not here yesterday. So, we do not know why he actually showed up yesterday.”
The rifle-wielding shooter burst into the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs on Sunday, killing 26 people — including children.
Another 20 people were wounded.
The massacre left about 4% of the small town’s population dead. And virtually no one at the church was left unharmed, Tackitt said.
“I think nearly everyone had some type of injury,” the sheriff told reporters Monday.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the slaughter “the largest mass shooting” in the state’s history.
The in-laws and Mr. Kelley’s ex-wife were interviewed by investigators last night in Sutherland Springs. They were not in the town at the time of the shooting according to law enforcement. Sheriff Tackitt said one of the most horrific aspects of the mass killing were the number of children who had been shot. He did not give a definite number.
Officials said they did not immediately know the motive for the attack. However, on Monday morning Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told that Kelley had in-laws who attended the church. Tackitt said the in-laws were not present at the time of the massacre but came to the church after hearing about the shooting.
The Victims of Texas Church Shooting
Names had not been released by Monday morning, but Martin said their ages range from 5 to 72 years old. However, it was reported that Annabelle Renee Pomeroy, the 14-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy, who was out of town with his wife when the massacre took place.
Sheriff Joe Tackitt confirmed that many people in one family had been killed, but didn’t say how many, describing it as “a pretty high number.”
Tackitt said he’s known the family “forever.” CNN reported that at least eight family members were killed.
How the attack unfolded
The gunman was seen at a Valero gas station across the street from the church at about 11:20 a.m. (12:20 p.m. ET).
He drove across the street, got out and began firing even before he entered the church, Martin said.
David Flores told that his father saw the shooter.
“My dad saw the gunman run into the church building and then he heard shots and saw people running,” Flores told. “People covered in blood and screaming. It was pandemonium everywhere.”
As the shooter left the church, a local resident used his own rifle to engage him, Martin said. The gunman dropped his weapon and fled.
Johnnie Langendorff said he was driving to his girlfriend’s house when he saw the shootout between the shooter and the armed resident.
The gunman took off in a Ford Explorer, Langendorff told.
The resident “briefed me quickly on what had just happened and said we had to get him, and so that’s what I did,” Langendorff said.
They gave chase in his truck and called police. As they sped after him, Langendorff said, the shooter “eventually lost control on his own and went off into the ditch” in neighboring Guadalupe County.
“The gentleman that was with me got out and rested his rifle on my hood and kept it aimed at him [shooter], telling him to get out. There was no movement, there was none of that. I just know his brake lights were going on and off, so he might’ve been unconscious from the crash or something like that. I’m not sure.”
Law enforcement later found the suspect dead of a gunshot wound inside his vehicle.
A law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said multiple weapons were found in the shooter’s car. The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are involved in the investigation.