Gunman Checked Each Aisle, Shot Babies At Point-Blank Range

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The gunman who killed 26 people at a small-town Texas church went aisle to aisle looking for victims and shot crying babies at point-blank range, a couple who survived the attack said.

Rosanne Solis and Joaquin Ramirez were sitting near the entrance to the First Baptist Church on Sunday when they heard what sounded like firecrackers and realized someone was shooting at the tiny wood-frame building.

In an interview with San Antonio television station KSAT, Solis said congregants began screaming and dropped to the floor. She could see bullets flying into the carpet and fellow worshippers falling down, bloodied, after getting hit.

For a moment, the attacked seemed to stop, and worshippers thought that police had arrived to confront the gunman. But then he entered the church and resumed “shooting hard” at helpless families, Solis said.

The gunman checked each aisle for more victims, including babies who cried out amid the noise and smoke, Ramirez said.

The couple survived by huddling close to the ground and playing dead. Solis was shot in the arm. Ramirez was hit by shrapnel.

About 20 other people were wounded. Investigators collected at least 15 empty magazines that held 30 rounds each at the scene, suggesting the assailant fired at least 450 rounds.

The gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, had a history of domestic violence that spanned years before the attack and was able buy weapons because the Air Force did not submit his criminal history to the FBI as required by military rules.

If Kelley’s past offenses had been properly shared, they would have prevented him from buying a gun, the Air Force acknowledged Monday.

Investigators also revealed that Kelley had sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, a member of the church, before the attack, and that sheriff’s deputies had responded to a domestic violence call in 2014 at his home involving a girlfriend who became his second wife.

Later that year, he was formally ousted from the Air Force for a 2012 assault on his ex-wife in which he choked her and struck her son hard enough to fracture his skull.

At a news conference in South Korea, President Donald Trump was asked if he would support “extreme vetting” for gun purchases in the same way he has called for “extreme vetting” for people entering the country. Trump responded by saying stricter gun control measures might have led to more deaths in the shooting because a bystander who shot at the gunman would not have been armed.

“If he didn’t have a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead,” Trump said.

In the tiny town of Sutherland Springs, population 400, grieving townspeople reeled from their losses. The dead ranged from 18 months to 77 years old and included multiple members of some families.

“Our church was not comprised of members or parishioners. We were a very close family,” said the pastor’s wife Sherri Pomeroy, who, like her husband, was out of town when the attack happened. “Now most of our church family is gone.”

The couple’s 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle Pomeroy, was among those killed.

Kelley’s mother-in-law sometimes attended services there, but the sheriff said she was not at church Sunday.

The massacre appeared to stem from a domestic situation and was not racially or religiously motivated, Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said. He did not elaborate.

Based on evidence at the scene, investigators believe Kelley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was chased by bystanders, one of whom was armed, and crashed his car.

The 26-year-old shooter also used his cellphone to tell his father he had been shot and did not think he would survive, authorities said.

While in the military, Kelley served in logistics readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his 2014 discharge, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.

He was discharged for the assault involving his previous wife and her child and had served a year of confinement after a court-martial. Under Pentagon rules, information about convictions of military personnel for crimes such as assault should be submitted to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Investigation Services Division.

Stefanek said the service is launching a review of its handling of the case and taking a comprehensive look at its databases to ensure other cases have been reported correctly.

A few months before he received the bad-conduct discharge, sheriff’s deputies went to his home to check out the domestic violence complaint involving him and his then-girlfriend. People in the house said there was no problem, and no arrests were made. Kelley married the girlfriend two months later.

Also in 2014, he was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty in Colorado after a neighbor reported him for beating a dog. Kelley initially refused to speak with officers about the incident. He denied abusing the animal but complied with an order to pay almost $370 in restitution. He was also the focus of a protective order issued in Colorado in 2015.

Kelley lived in New Braunfels, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) north of the church, and had recently started a job as an unarmed security guard at a nearby resort.

As he left the church, the shooter was confronted by an armed resident — later identified as Stephen Willeford — who had grabbed his own rifle and exchanged fire with Kelley.

Willeford had help from another local resident, Johnnie Langendorff, who said he was driving past the church as the shooting happened. The armed resident asked to get in Langendorff’s truck, and the pair followed as the gunman drove away.

“He jumped in my truck and said, ‘He just shot up the church. We need to go get him.’ And I said ‘Let’s go,'” Langendorff said.

The pursuit reached speeds up to 90 mph (145 kph). Willeford told Arkansas TV stations KHBS/KHOG that he kept a 911 operator advised of the situation during the chase. The gunman eventually lost control of his vehicle and crashed.

Willeford walked up to the vehicle with his gun drawn, and the attacker did not move. Police arrived about five minutes later, Langendorff said.

The assailant was dead in his vehicle. He had three gunshot wounds — two from where the armed man hit him in the leg and the torso and the third self-inflicted wound to the head, authorities said.

“There was no thinking about it. There was just doing. That was the key to all this. Act now. Ask questions later,” Langendorff said.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments

One Comment

  1. “Investigators also revealed that Kelley had sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, a member of the church, before the attack” the shooter threaten his ex-inlaws that same day? Could this attack have been thwarted?

    1. Nearly every heinous crime could likely be avoided if we had the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and could see into the minds of every person who says something “off.”

      What could his in laws do? Call the police and say their ex son-in-law sent them mean messages, can y’all come watch over our church while we attend services? If they hadn’t gone to church, would the shooter have checked inside before shooting it up?

      If you’re going to talk about ways we could have avoided this event, focus on the Air Force not reporting the felony conviction to the NICS. When you have so many moving parties (military, doctors, judiciary, friends/family) it’s near impossible for things to fall through the crack. It is always someone’s fault when these things occur, other than the gunman himself. Our constant need to blame someone is why we end up with stupid legislation that does nothing to protect the public.

      1. When are people going to wake up to the fact that EVERY mass shooter has had mental illness problems? Stop blaming guns and start doing something about the mentally ill. No gun law in the world would’ve stopped this guy — obviously.

  2. Liberals you own this. From you soft on crime approach to your hate for Christians.

  3. Yeah, he gun made him evil. If hadn’t been gun he would have used sword, knife, explosives, truck, club, fire, etc. He was EVIL. Outlaw everything and he would still have found way to kill.

  4. chrismireya says:

    Liberal politicians and anti-Second Amendment activists have not stopped using any tragedy like this to try and push their anti-Second Amendment views. They claim that they want “new laws to prevent tragedies like this.” Yet, the laws already exist.

    The law prohibits felons from owning guns — including those who are “dishonorably discharged” from the military. Yet, instead of going after the guns of criminals, violent people, career thieves, drug and gang criminals, etc., the liberal politicians go after the rights of good and law-abiding Americans who can be trusted with a Second Amendment right to defend life, liberty and property.

    There is a recourse for anti-gun activists can take. They can attempt to repeal the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights through a Constitutional Amendment. However, they know that this would never work for them because the people will not support the removal of a right. So, they continue with their agenda-driven narrative in an attempt to convince “unaware and compliant” supporters to join their lost cause.

  5. We need comprehensive leftist control.
    Thank God an NRA-member armed citizen stopped this left-wing murdering lunatic.

  6. Mark Meyer says:

    This is what liberal fascism does to people. Wake up liberals! Also, this guy was nuts and probably addicted to video games.

  7. Con Nod says:

    Nice to know that administrative functions are hit and miss in the military. No wonder the Veterans Administration is in such disarray. Oh well, as they say….”close enough for government work.”

  8. Are we going to continue to pretend that this had no motive? This was an attack on Christians. Enough is enough. This is a White Christian nation and the further we deviate from that the more problems we have.

  9. The killer talked about how he didn’t want God in his life (by denying Him) most of his life. Then he demonstrated these beliefs.

    “Without God, everything is permitted.”

    I’ll NEVER surrender my firearms because those who push “gun control” have also made society a Hell on Earth where INNOCENT human life no longer matters to an increasingly larger number of individuals.

  10. It appears that the gunman was a loser and developed a deep grudge against his immediate family and the system. This was his way of getting even.

    How do you deal with a tormented and deranged person?

  11. Paul Roberts says:

    There you have it. An Evil nut that should not have guns got them. A hero that should of had a gun protected and killed the murder. Conceal and Carry! YES! Saves lives!

  12. Rob Johnson says:

    Liberalism, which is really just disguised Marxist Leninism, has made our nation a hell of crime and degradation, as they have systematically worked to destroy the foundations of our country, our faith, our families, our free market. Thank God for the Second Amendment. Every church must have concealed carry and armed guards dressed in security uniforms. Good luck to everyone.

  13. if there had responsibilities and gun laws. t the currentbeen a few armed parrisioners present, there would hae been far less loss of life.

    If the U.S. Air Force had properly reported the court martial, sentence and Dishonorable Discharge this perp would have been on the no buy list and would not have been legally able to buy a gun. The A.F. has some responsibility here and ‘we will look into it’ just doesn’t cut it.

    The same Marxist Progressives who want to make more gun laws can’t get the government to carry out the existing laws so why would more make a difference?

  14. Phil Bickel says:

    “The massacre appeared to stem from a domestic situation and was not racially or religiously motivated, Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said. He did not elaborate.”

    Anybody that read his Facebook rants knows this is not a true statement. You don’t just get back at your mother-in law by killing dozens of worshipping Christians. He was a hate filled atheist, who also just happened to have an axe to grind with his mother-in-law. If it was just his mother-in-law he would have just gone to her mansion.

  15. America NEEDS its asylums back.

    REBUILD the ASYLUMS!!!

  16. Bob Hanover says:

    Story failed to mention that the hero in this horrific act, Mr. Willeford, is an NRA-Trained Firearms Instructor! Guess that just slipped the writer’s mind.

    1. Convenient or an oversight? Hmmm. We can only imagine.

  17. Another psycho Democrat, frothing mad from decades of being brainwashed by fake news. Today I heard a mentioned all mass shooters had 2 things in common, domestic violence and a gun, but they have THREE things in common, most are DEMOCRATS of their pet Muslim immigrants they love to harbor.

  18. Kelly could have bought an illegal gun just as easily as he could have bought an illegal drug. Oppressive guns laws would have mean that the law-abiding NRA member- neighbor wouldn’t have had a gun to stop the killer. But the killer would still have had a gun. That is what the Leftist solution would have given us. Never Ever give up your guns to the government, nor let them tell you what, if any gun, you are allowed to own. Just say NO to Leftists and their oppression.

  19. Extreme vetting for a firearm. But, if the appropriate people do not log the information needed, the vetting will not help.

  20. John Oliver says:

    We can all take comfort that he is now burning in Hell.

    1. God HATES hands that spill innocent blood, and killing babies has to be the epitome of spilling innocent blood, but really they were all innocent victims. This loser will experience the suffering of all the victims and the bereaved, and that pain and devastation will be compounded still by a new found guilt. All the pain, sadness, bitterness of each victim and victim’s family is going to be on his head, along with God’s own sorrow. But God is merciful so he won’t suffer as much as he deserves and even that knowledge will pain him. Spiritual pain is worse than physical pain. It is so bad we should be afraid for him and shudder for him like we would if the Columbian mafia got him. I pray for God’s mercy.

  21. Dave Pula says:

    I’m thinking this MANIAC might have been on some kind of PSYCH DRUG. According to law enforcement stats, MOST incidents where somebody has gone BERSERK and shot to death numerous totally innocent complete strangers, most of those killers HAD been, or were currently, on some psych drug. And I believe the drugs CAUSED the shooters psychotic, homicidal rampage. This MUST be investigated !!! These tragedies are probably going to be repeated, again, and again, until the connection between these murderous tragedies, and these INSIDIOUS drugs is recognized. And when the connection is acknowledged, SHRINKS who prescribe these POISONOUS drugs, and Big Pharma, who makes and DAMNED drugs, both need to be held accountable !!!

  22. Shock Title.. the youngest was 18 months. Where are the other babies ? This man did a horrible thing but dont you dare destroy others legacy by stating he went around shooting babies, when the only baby 18 months was killed. He killed Children, teens and adults.. dont go around pushing a blantant false title to a disgusting act of evil.

  23. Max Duncan says:

    Probably the worst written article I’ve read on the shooting. On they other hand, thank you for employing third graders.

  24. John Oakman says:

    The shooter was a Christian hating antifica leftist.

  25. I wish every adult in that church was armed.

  26. I wonder if this opens wrongful death lawsuits against the United States Air Force?

  27. baaaaaahhhh…LIBERALS… BAAAAAHHHHHHH…

  28. Sam (@rriz) says:

    So, he spewed hateful atheist views online (per FB friends, some of whom unfriended him due to him belittling believers) yet the same tired claim that “this was not motivated by religion”. You lie!

  29. Not that I condone it, but who hasn’t wanted to shoot a crying baby?

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