UPDATE:

Texas gunman kills 27 at Sunday church service

CNHI News Service

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Tex. – A gunman walked into the First Baptist Church in this tiny South Texas town during Sunday morning service, firing randomly at the congregation and killing 27 churchgoers, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt reported.

Several others were wounded, some critically. The shooter died of gun wounds shortly after fleeing the scene in a vehicle, but it was not clear if he took his own life or law officers who chased him down shot him. He was not immediately identified.

The victims, including children, were air lifted and taken by ambulance to nearby hospitals, including the Brooke Army Medical Center.

Witnesses said there were about 50 people at the 11 a.m. church service when the gunman walked in around 11:30 a.m. and randomly fired at the congregation. The sheriff said a 2-year-old child was among the victims.

“This is horrific for our little tight-knit town,” said resident Alena Berlanga. “Everybody’s going to be affected and everybody knows someone who’s affected.”

Sutherland Springs, an unincorporated town of 400, is located on U.S. Highway 87 about 25 miles southeast of San Antonio. The church is located just off the highway.

The massacre occurred one month after a gunman killed 58 people at a Las Vegas music festival, firing at them from the 32nd floor of a hotel suite. That shooter reportedly took his own life.

No motive had been determined for the church shootings. Agents from the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were on the scene, assisting the Texas Rangers and the sheriff’s office in the investigation.

Amanda Mosel, whose 13-year-old goddaughter died in the shooting, told the San Antonio Express News she normally attends the weekly service at the church but did not do so this Sunday.

“From what I’ve heard, someone just walked in and started shooting,” she said. “It’s a small, tight-night church.”

A resident who lives near the church told the San Antonio Express news the gunshots sounded like “somebody banging a piece of wood” upon hearing a rapid succession of “pop, pop, pop” sounds, then a pause and another burst of pops.

She said the sound kept repeating itself but she could see no activity at the church. Minutes after the noise stopped, she said, police cars swarmed the neighborhood.

“I’m shocked by it,” she said, declining to give her name. “It is really unbelievable.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the massacre an “evil act” and called on the public to pray for the victims and their families. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, described the tragedy as “terrible” and joined in the call for prayers.

President Donald Trump said he was monitoring the situation from Japan, his first stop on a 12-day, five-country trip to Asia. He tweeted: “May God be w/the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas.”

Wilson County Commissioner Albert Gamez, Jr. spoke for the community.

“My heart is broken,” he said. “We never think where it can happen, and it does happen. It doesn’t matter where you’re at. In a small community, real quiet and everything, and look at this, look what can happen.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Tex. – At least 20 churchgoers were killed and 20 others wounded when a gunman walked into the First Baptist Church in this tiny South Texas community during Sunday service, firing randomly at the congregation.

Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said the shooter was shot to death. No immediate motive was given for the mass murders, which occurred one month after a gunman killed 58 people at a Las Vegas music festival.

The random shootings occurred at 11:30 a.m., a half-hour after the start of the church’s Sunday service.

Sutherland Springs is located along U.S. Highway 87 about 25 miles southeast of San Antonio. It is an unincorporated community of 400 people. The church is just off the highway.

Helicopters and ambulances evacuated the victims to nearby hospitals, including the Brooke Army Medical Center. First responders from several towns were quick to the scene.

County Commissioner Paul Pheil said he was told at least 20 people had been killed and a like number wounded, several of them critically.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott described the shootings as an “evil act” in a tweet. Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, called the tragedy “terrible.” Both urged prayers for the victims and their families.

Agents from the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were on the scene, assisting the Texas Rangers and the sheriff’s office in the investigation.

President Donald Trump tweeted from Japan, where he is on a 12-day Asian trip, that he’s monitoring the situation. “May God be w/the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas,” he said.

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