MIAMI – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed Sunday evening that 26 people died in the mass shooting by a lone gunman at a Baptist church in Texas, while dozens of people were wounded.
The massacre took place inside a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, when a gunman – identified by several media outlets as Devin Kelley, a white male 26 years old – opened fire, local media reported.
Local police told Channel KSAT12 that the shooter was dead but did not specify the cause of death or the exact number of victims inside the First Baptist Church.
Authorities told ABC News that the fatalities ranged from 5 to 72 years of age, with one of them being Annabel Pomeroy, the 14-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy.
Abbott called the incident the “largest mass shooting in our state’s history”
Authorities also said that Kelley – although they did not identify him by name – belonged to a criminal organization.
Freeman Martin, with the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at the press conference that the attacker was dressed all in black and was wearing a bulletproof vest.
Twenty-three people died inside the church, two outside the building and one more at a local hospital.
After the shooting, the attacker encountered a local resident who had heard the shots. That resident had grabbed his rifle and fired at Kelley, although authorities have not said how he died.
Sutherland Springs, a community of about 500, is located 45 kilometers (28 miles) southeast of San Antonio, and a heavy police presence at the crime scene – including FBI personnel – as well as medical personnel, was reported after the incident.
A police detective told Fox News that there was no longer an “active threat” at the church, which at the time of the shootings was celebrating Mass.
An eyewitness told KSAT12 TV news that about 11:30 am a man – apparently Kelley – armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle entered the small church and opened fire on worshippers.
Kelley was able to flee the scene of the shooting in his vehicle and was pursued by police some 17 km (11 mi.) until he was halted in a field, where he died, but it is still not clear if police shot him or he committed suicide, Guadalupe County Sheriff Robert Murphy said.
The sheriff added, CNN reported, that security forces pursued Kelley across the county line from Wilson County, where Sutherland Springs is located, into Guadalupe County after the massacre.
Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez (D-Tex.) told Univision that the shooter was not from Sutherland Springs, adding “We’re in shock.”
He added that the town is a “small rural” community with a mostly Anglo-Saxon population, although 20 percent of the population is Latino.
He said that most people make their living from raising cattle, farming or working in the energy sector.
President Donald Trump, who is on an official trip to Japan and other Asian nations, said that he was following the situation, adding on Twitter “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.”
Shortly after the incident, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said on Twitter that “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,” referring to the Department of Public Safety.