At least 26 worshippers, including a five-year-old and a pregnant woman, were killed when a gunman opened fire inside a small church in a quiet Texas town on Sunday.
America’s latest mass shooting happened during a Sunday service at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a community of 400 people about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said 26 people died, with the victims ranging in age from 5 to 72 years old.
The gunman was dressed all in black tactical gear with a ballistic vest and had an assault rifle, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Freeman Martin said.
He said the gunman arrived at a gas station across from the church at around 11:20 a.m. He crossed the street and started firing a Ruger AR rifle at the church, and continued after entering the building.
Law enforcement officials work the scene of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas CREDIT: NICK WAGNER/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN VIA AP
“It’s a small community, small church, real nice community. Man, you never expect something like this. We don’t know what would inspire a guy to start shooting like that.
“I got a call and they told me there was a big scene going on with a lot of shooting. The details are sketchy, we’re trying to find out what’s gone on.”
One witness, a cashier at a petrol station over the road from the church, said she heard dozens of shots being fired in rapid succession while the church service was going on.
Carrie Matula said: “We heard semi-automatic gunfire. We’re only about 50 yards away from this church. This is a very small community so everyone was very curious as to what was going on.”
Dana Fletcher, a nearby shopkeeper, said: “It’s a little church in a very small community, I don’t know why it would be targeted. It’s a very tight knit community. People all know each other.”
She added: “People weren’t sure whether there was more than one gunman.”
The shooting came just over a month after a gunman in Las Vegas, firing down from a hotel room, killed 58 people and wounded hundreds attending an outdoor concert.
Two years ago a white supremacist, Dylann Roof, entered a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and shot nine people to death.
A spokeswoman for Connally Memorial Medical Centre in Floresville, near Sutherland Springs, said: “We have accepted a number of patients from the shooting”.
Helicopters and emergency personnel converged on the scene along with agents form the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Barack Obama, the former president, appealed for “concrete steps” to be taken to prevent such tragedies in the future.
Ted Cruz, the Texas Senator, said: “Keeping all harmed in Sutherland Springs in our prayers and grateful for our brave first responders on the scene.”
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. src :telegraph.
The Express News