Gunman identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley was found dead in his vehicle shortly after the attack, investigators still ascertaining his motive
A former US Air Force airman sporting tactical gear and using an assault rifle opened fire on worshippers during a Sunday morning service at a small Baptist church in the tiny, non-descript hamlet of Sutherland Springs in rural Texas. The horrifying incident left 26 people dead while 20 others parishioners were injured in this latest gun- related massacre even as US President Donald Trump sought to claim that the incident isn’t “a guns situation.”
The gunman was identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, two law enforcement officials told mediapersons in Texas on condition of anonymity; stating that because the investigation in the tragedy was continuing. Kelley, who lived in New Braunfels, Texas, was found dead in his own vehicle shortly after the attack and several weapons were recovered from the spot.
The motive behind Kelley – who was reportedly discharged from the US Air Force in 2014 – going on the shooting spree is yet to be ascertained though President Donald Trump declared the shooter to be a “very deranged individual” with a “mental health problem at the highest level”.
According to media reports, Kelley carried out the assault with a Ruger military-style rifle. The victims ranged in age from 5 to 72, and among the dead were several children and a pregnant woman. The Sutherland Springs tragedy has been described by the American media as “the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history.”
Police said the gunman crossed the street in his vehicle, got out and began firing on the church goers. He then moved to the right side of the church, continuing to fire and then into the building. As he left, he was confronted by a resident who grabbed his rifle and then began to fire at him as he fled. The resident then chased the shooter who left the scene in his vehicle before leaving the road at the border with Guadalupe County.
“The exact circumstances of the gunman’s death are still under investigation. The wounded individuals were transported to San Antonio Medical Centre and University Hospital in San Antonio,” the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement said.
In a brief statement, the Pentagon said the suspect was an airman “at one point”. Media reports later quoted US Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek as saying that Kelley was previously a member of the US Air Force and served at the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge. The Air Force did not provide a date for or condition of Kelley’s discharge from Air Force service. However, some media outlets reported that he was dishonourably discharged and court martialled in May 2014 but did not cite the grounds on which this was done.
US officials said Kelley doesn’t appear to be linked to any organised terrorist groups though investigators were in the process of looking at social media posts he may have made in the days prior to the Sutherland Springs attack.
Less than a thousand people live in Sutherland Springs and officials believe that the number of people who are injured and killed make up about ten per cent of the hamlet’s entire population.
“While the details of this horrific act are still under investigation… I want to send our sincerest thoughts and prayers to all those who have been affected by this evil act,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said during a media briefing.
Sunday’s attack is the fifth deadliest incident of mass shooting in modern US history.
The shooting comes just a month after a gunman in Las Vegas opened fire on an outdoor music festival, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds in the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history.
On June 12, 2016, a heavily-armed gunman had opened shooting inside a nightclub in Orlando. 49 people were killed in the shooting with the attacker pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group, which later claimed its responsibility.