Authorities Identify Shooter In Texas Church Killings

15 hours ago
Originally published on November 6, 2017 10:15 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The victims ranged in age from 5 to 72. In total, 26 people were killed in Sutherland Springs, Texas, yesterday while they were gathered in a house of prayer. They were shot by a lone gunman during services at the First Baptist Church. Texas Governor Greg Abbott spoke last night.

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GREG ABBOTT: There are so many families who've lost family members - fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. The tragedy, of course, is worsened by the fact that it occurred in a church, a place of worship, where these people were innocently gunned down.

R. MARTIN: For more, we turn to NPR's Wade Goodwyn. Wade, tell us what you have been able to learn from officials and investigators about what happened yesterday.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Yeah, it's pretty - it's pretty awful. According to the Texas Rangers and other law enforcement officials who have been down there, about 11:20 yesterday morning Kelley exited his vehicle. He was at a Valero gas station and began walking toward the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.

R. MARTIN: We should say Devin - this Kelley is Devin Patrick Kelley, the suspect.

GOODWYN: That's right, Devin Kelley. He was firing an assault-style rifle, or Ruger, at the church facade. Eyewitnesses said, you know, he was wearing, like, all black and had a bulletproof vest on. And he apparently killed his first two victims, you know, they were outside the church there. He was, you know, he walked around the side of the church firing at the facade the whole time and then entered the church and, you know, in what must have been an unimaginable scene, began to murder the worshippers. You know, it included children, the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor. The pastor just happened to be out of town yesterday. Also killed were a pregnant woman, children as young as 5 years old, as you mentioned. It was indiscriminate.

He left the church after this and was engaged by a local resident who fired at him with a long gun, perhaps. It might have been a shotgun. It's unclear if Kelley was hit then, but he dropped his gun and then fled in his vehicle and the resident pursued him in his own vehicle. Kelley eventually crashed. He was found dead inside the vehicle. As you mentioned, he had been shot. And then last night, people gathered. There was a vigil in the town, a prayer service for the local residents, and they're just beginning to process this horror that's been visited upon them.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Father, God, we ask that you heal our broken hearts...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Yes, Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: ...That only you can bring us back together.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And we need you now more than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Yes, Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Yes, Lord.

R. MARTIN: Sound there from that candlelight vigil last night where people gathered in prayer to remember the victims. What do we know, Wade, about the gunman, anything more about Devin Patrick Kelley?

GOODWYN: Well, he graduated from New Braunfels High in 2009, and he went into the Air Force right after that. And we don't know a ton about his service record, but we - what we do know is not great. The airman was - the airman was eventually court-martialed for assaulting his wife and child, and he was confined for a year. He was discharged with a bad conduct discharge in 2014. Not surprisingly, Kelley and his wife got a divorce. There's a report that he was in El Paso, Colo., and was charged with cruelty and neglect to animals there. That case was eventually dismissed. He ended up back in New Braunfels living on his parents' property with a new wife and 2-year-old son. That's according to KENS TV in San Antonio. And as we hear all too often, his neighbors described him as a regular guy and say they were shocked at what happened.

R. MARTIN: Yeah, so no notion of a motive at this point.

GOODWYN: No. I mean, we don't. I mean, I think this may become clearer as we learn the identity of some of the victims perhaps as early as today.

R. MARTIN: And, I mean, the place where this has happened, this is a small place, right? This is a place where this community, the people would be connected to the people who were in that church.

GOODWYN: Right. I mean, you know, a few hundred residents. And when you think about how many were killed inside that church, you know, that's a fair cross-section of this town. It's a, you know, what we say is a one-horse town, and it's very rural. It's very quiet. And, you know, this town is - got a long way to go to try to cope with what has happened. I think they're just beginning to process the nightmare that's been visited.

R. MARTIN: NPR's Wade Goodwyn reporting this morning. Thanks, Wade.

GOODWYN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.