Devin Kelley: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

devin kelley

Facebook Devin Kelley.

Devin P. Kelley, who was court-martialed by the U.S. Air Force for assaulting his wife and stepson, was identified as the black-clad and military-rifle wielding gunman who walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday morning and slaughtered at least 26 people in the tiny, rural community near San Antonio. Twenty others were wounded, and 10 remain in critical condition.

The shooter burst into the church, wearing a face mask with a white skull on it and shouted, “Everybody die, motherf–ker!”, targeting children who “couldn’t control their fear.” An eyewitness who survived the massacre said “He would open fire point-blank on babies who cried.” He was identified by authorities as Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, of New Braunfels, Texas, a married local whose Air Force court martial occurred only three years ago. Kelley was also a licensed unarmed security guard for a prominent waterpark.

Police confirmed Monday morning that Kelley’s mother-in-law attended the church, and there was a “domestic situation” involving his family, including unspecified text threats made by the shooter and anger directed toward his mother-in-law. Police said Kelley was not motivated by religious beliefs, although the shooter had personal ties to the church through his wife; the gunman claimed he briefly taught Bible school, but he also liked Facebook pages devoted to atheism and weirded friends out with his posts about it. He unleashed 450 rounds.

It was revealed on November 6 that the U.S. Air Force failed to inform law enforcement about Kelley’s military conviction for domestic violence (he broke the skull of his infant stepson), which would have stopped him from purchasing a firearm. “Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations,” the Air Force said.

The shooter, who is dead, left behind disturbing social media posts, including a Facebook page that showed off a rifle, calling it a “bad b*tch.” (You can see the photo later in this story.) He lived on a rural property – where neighbors reported hearing gunfire ring out at night – near his parents in what KSAT-TV dubbed a “barndominium” (Those are affordable metal buildings converted into living quarters).

Authorities revealed that a heroic citizen, a neighbor of the church named Stephen Willeford, “grabbed his rifle and confronted the suspect,” who was armed with a “Ruger AR assault type rifle.” The neighbor shot Kelley. The local citizen and another man, Johnnie Langendorff, who happened to be driving past the church, then pursued the suspect, who ran off the road and crashed and was found deceased in his vehicle. Kelley was shot by the “Texas hero” outside the church in the leg and torso, authorities said. He called his father while being chased, and told him he wasn’t going to make it, police said. It is believed that he then shot himself and died of a self-inflicted wound to the head.

It was the worst mass shooting in Texas history. The details – children hiding under pews and gunned down; churchgoers slaughtered as they worshipped with family; nine people dying from a single family – were horrific. Just five days ago, the church had posted now heartbreaking photos of a fall festival on Facebook, which it’s now revealed that Kelley attended.

sutherland springs victims, texas church shooting victims

FacebookSome of the shooting victims identified. Clockwise from top left: Joann Ward, 30; Emily Garza, 7; Bryan Holcombe, 60 and Karla Holcombe, 58; Annabelle Pomeroy, 14; and Brooke Ward, 5.

The mass shooting wounded almost everyone inside the small wood-frame country church building, which held only about 50 people in the town of only a few hundred people. “I think nearly everyone had some type of injury,” the sheriff said. The victims ranged in age from 5 to 72, authorities said. “This will be a long suffering mourning for those in pain,” said Governor Greg Abbott, confirming that 26 people had died. Heavy has learned that the shooter’s wife’s Facebook page says that she is from Sutherland Springs, and her mother was pictured in previous photos at the First Baptist Church. Online records show the wife’s name is Danielle Shields Kelley, which CBS has also confirmed. One man said the gunman was known to at least one victim who died in the attack.

About 4 percent of the town died, a staggering tragedy, reported CNN. A KSAT-TV reporter at the scene said that an “ambu-bus” had responded, which is used to transport multiple victims (you can read a round-up of the victims’ stories here). Pregnant women and young children were reportedly among the victims, including the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor, who was out of town when the mass shooting occurred. All of the victims were still not identified, the sheriff said a Sunday evening press conference, but some families gave names to the news media.

It was the deadliest mass shooting of child victims since Sandy Hook, and the 5th deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. One man, John Holcombe, who survived, lost his parents, his pregnant wife, his three children, his unborn child, and his other two children were in critical condition. His last Facebook page is from November 4, and read, “Sunday School lesson is about Manna from Heaven – found in Exodus 16.” One young boy, wounded in the carnage and pictured below, was rushed into surgery after being shot four times. His mother and two siblings were also shot. They didn’t make it.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. The Shooter, Who Showed Off a Rifle on Facebook, Creeped Out Friends by Preaching About Atheism & Lived on a Wooded Property Where Gunfire Rang Out at Night

Devin Patrick Kelley’s Facebook page has now been deleted, but you can see a screenshot of the weapon he posted on it above. His profile picture showed a small child, which was a chilling juxtaposition next to the semi-automatic rifle that was his cover photo. According to The Daily Beast, “Kelley was married and Kelley’s mother-in-law listed a P.O. box in Sutherland Springs as a mailing address. San Antonio police reportedly raided Kelley’s home on Sunday evening…he briefly taught at a summer Bible school.” He lived about 35 miles from the shooting scene.

The shooter was described as a “white male in his 20s from outside San Antonio” by Mike Levine, a journalist for ABC News, who reported that law enforcement had uncovered a weapon photo on Kelley’s Facebook page. “Authorities are now scrubbing his social media; on Facebook in recent days, he showed off an AR-15 style-looking gun,” Levine wrote. Authorities said the rifle used in the massacre was similar to the one Kelley posted on Facebook, but they could not confirm it was the same weapon.

CNN reported that “Devin Kelley purchased the Ruger-AR556 rifle in April 2016 from an Academy Sports & Outdoors in San Antonio…Official says Kelley checked box to indicate he didn’t have any disqualifying criminal history on background paperwork.” The New York Times reported that the weapon Kelley used was once banned in the U.S. under an assault weapons ban of 1994 but became legal when the ban expired 10 years later. According to USA Today, the sales were approved by the “National Instant Criminal Background Check System,” according to the seller.

Although his strongest ties were to Texas, Kelley lived for a time in a Colorado mobile home park; while there, he registered as an “unaffiliated voter,” although he never actually voted, The Denver Post reported.

Devin Kelley’s LinkedIn page says that he was a VBS “teacher aid (sic)” for “VBS AT KINGSVILLE FBC” and notes, “Dates volunteered Jun 2013 – Jun 2013. Volunteer duration 1 mo. Cause Children. Teaching children ages 4-6 at vocational bible schools helping their minds grow and prosper.” However, multiple children are reportedly among those shot in the church. Furthermore, VBS stands for Vacation Bible School, not vocational as Kelley wrote.

Kelley’s Facebook page also showed that he had liked pages devoted to atheism, as well as those on German Shepherds, Glocks, and karate. As causes on LinkedIn, he indicated he cared about civil rights and social action, animal welfare, children, arts and culture, the environment, health, and human rights.

devin kelley linkedin

Part of Devin Kelley’s LinkedIn page.

Despite rumors on social media, there is no evidence that he was a member of Antifa or carried out the attack on behalf of the far left group. There is also no evidence he converted to Islam and was a practicing Muslim, as other social media rumors have claimed. Some doctored photos have circulated on social media, and people identified the wrong people as suspects early on. However, friends told ABC News he “hated religious people.” High school classmates who stayed in touch with him wrote that they’d grown troubled by his posts.

According to UK Daily Mail, “Former classmates described him as ‘creepy’, ‘crazy’ and an ‘outcast’ who had recently started preaching about atheism and picking fights on social media.”

One former classmate, Nina Rose Nava, wrote on her Facebook page, in posts reviewed by Heavy: “…in complete shock! I legit just deleted him off my fb cause I couldn’t stand his post. He was always talking about how people who believe in God we’re stupid and trying to preach his atheism. Smh.” It’s not clear why the killer would say he briefly taught Bible classes if he was fixated on atheism. She also wrote, “Me and my friend say him a month back at dennys and we were talking about how weird he was!!!”

Another woman on Nava’s page wrote that she had defriended Kelley on Facebook the day before the shooting. She wrote, “So crazy. He kept messaging me and his fb was creeping me out and I wasn’t liking all that he was sharing.” A man chimed in on the thread and wrote, “I removed him off FB for those same reasons! He was being super nagtive all the tim(e).”

In high school, Nava wrote, Kelley was “an outcast but I wouldn’t say loner. Like he has some friend and wasnt a complete nobody.” Wrote another man who knew him: “He was weird but never that damn weird, always posting his Atheist sh*t like Nina wrote, but damn he always posted pics of him and his baby – crazy.”

Another Facebook friend, a different high school classmate, Cord Brown, wrote, “I cannot believe this. I went to high school with this maniac. There were people I knew who stayed away from this guy for many reasons, which all make sense now. He just requested me on facebook recently. Devin Kelly, you are, in fact, officially the biggest piece of sh*t I’ve ever come across. Sorry for the language but wow.” A person on his thread recalled seeing Kelley and his father at a local karate studio and added that Kelley played football and skateboarded in high school

devin kelley facebook

The shooter’s Facebook page.

Kelley had recently shaved a beard, he wrote on Facebook.

Texas authorities released a driver’s license photo of Devin Kelley that shows him with the beard. According to KSAT-TV, “His parents lived in one home, while Kelley lived in a ‘barndominium'” on a “wooded property behind a cattle guard.” His neighbor, Mark Moravitz, told KSAT: “Nothing abnormal. Regular guy. I mean, the only thing unusual across the street is we hear a lot of gunfire, a lot of times at night. We hear gunfire a lot, but we’re out in the country.” The New York Times reported that his parents’ home is worth $1 million, although The Washington Post said it was $800,000 and that the family had lived on the 28 acres for more than a decade. Because it’s a hunting area, the Post noted that it’s not unusual to hear gunfire in that region.

Another neighbor, Ryan Albers, 16, also described hearing gunfire to the AP. “It’s really loud. At first I thought someone was blasting,” he said. “It was someone using automatic weapon fire.”

Johnathan Castillo, who lives in the area, told The LosAngeles Times that Kelley lost a lot of Facebook friends recently for “starting drama,” including “sending insulting Facebook messages.”

One of Kelley’s relatives unloaded on Facebook. “Devin ‘MY NEPHEW’ is NO better than a POS suicide bomber…He acted as a Coward..I hope he burns in hell!” wrote Dave Ivey. “HE Killed 27 people ….I dont care if hes my Nephew or not….He destroyed innocent lives.” NBC News also quoted him as saying, “I never in a million years could of believed Devin could be capable of this kind of thing. I am numb. … My family will suffer because of his coward actions. … I am so sorry for the victims in Texas.”

2. The Gunman Once Wrote That He Lived by the Air Force’s ‘Core Values’ Before Being Accused of Bad Conduct & He Found Work at a Waterpark

The LinkedIn page in the shooter’s name shows that Devin Kelley served in the U.S. Air Force right after high school, from 2009 through 2013. According to The New York Times, Kelley is from Comal County. His motive and why he targeted the Wilson County church are not 100 percent clear, but the growing evidence points to a domestic disturbance as a possible trigger. Comal County is located northeast of San Antonio, Texas. Authorities confirmed that Kelley lived in New Braunfels, a suburb of San Antonio.

Texas state records show that Devin Kelley was licensed as a non-commissioned, unarmed security officer and worked at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort in New Braunfels. Authorities said he’d passed clearance checks to become one. According to CNN, he lost his job at the waterpark after a short time.

devin patrick kelley

Texas Department of Public Safety record on Devin Patrick Kelley.

Kelley’s LinkedIn page says, under the entry for U.S. Air Force, “Cargo, demand and supply , distribution.” He added, “Basic learning on my contracted job.” The page says he attended New Braunfels High School from 2003 to 2009, receiving his diploma. His LinkedIn page also says, “I am a hard working dedicated person. I live by he (sic) core values on which the Air Force go by.” He identified himself as a “management consulting professional” and said he was CPR certified.

CBS News reported that the suspect is former “US Air Force E1 (2010-2014). He received a dishonorable discharge. He was court martialed in May 2014.” The network also wrote, “Kelley is a former U.S. Air Force member who served from 2010 to 2014. He was dishonorably discharged and court martialed in May 2014.” However, other reports indicate the end result was a bad conduct discharge. According to Daily Beast, “Kelley was court martialed in November 2012 and a judge sentenced him with a bad-conduct discharge, 12 months confinement, and two reductions in rank to basic airman, according to an appeals court decision in 2013 that affirmed the decision against Kelley.” He broke his infant stepson’s skull.

Heavy has confirmed that a petition for review of Kelley’s appeal was denied in March 2014. The case is listed as No. 14-0387/AF. U.S. v. Devin P. KELLEY. CCA 38267. The National Correspondent for the Los Angeles Times wrote on Twitter that the court martial was because Kelley assaulted his wife and child. Kelley married the woman he was married to at the time of the shooting in 2014, according to online records and her own Facebook page. However, the New York Times reported that he was the subject of a 2012 divorce filing in New Mexico. His first wife was named Tessa Kelley.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told USA Today that Kelley “served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge.” She told that “Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 for two counts of Article 128 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: assault on his spouse and assault on their child… He received a bad conduct discharge, confinement for twelve months and a reduction to the grade of E-1.”

According to American Military News, “Under U.S. Code, dishonorably discharged military personnel are not allowed to legally purchase a firearm and this is documented on the ATF’s website. However the conditions of the dishonorable discharge have yet to be released.” According to The Los Angeles Times, “Federal law prohibits a person who has been dishonorably discharged from buying a firearm. Whether Kelley’s discharge would trigger the law was not immediately clear.”

However, Texas’ governor said on Monday to CNN that Kelley was denied a gun permit by the state. “So how was it that he was able to get a gun? By all the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun,” the governor asked.

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In Comal County, where the 5 foot 9 inch Kelley lived, he only had minor traffic offenses in the public record database. According to KPRC, “Devin Kelley escaped from a behavioral center in New Mexico a little more than five years before” the massacre. According to the television station, the report says Kelley “was attempting to carry out death threats” on military supervisors.

There were other warning signs; he’d dated a 13-year-old at age 18, and he was investigated but not charged for rape in New Braunfels.His soon to be second wife one told a friend he was abusing her.

In El Paso County, Colorado, “he was charged with a misdemeanor count of mistreatment, neglect or cruelty to animals…The case was eventually dismissed, although the details and circumstances surrounding the charge weren’t immediately clear,” The Washington Post reported.

USA Today reported that witnesses “saw Kelley repeatedly punch a white and brown husky.”

The scene outside the church was heartbreaking as crying family members of loved ones gathered outside, desperate for information about them, and praying. A local hospital has reported receiving multiple victims. The ATF was responding to the scene, as did the FBI. Authorities had said very little in the hour immediately after the shooting because they were dealing with the mass casualty event. However, just before 6 p.m., the governor and other officials held a news conference.

Texas Governor Abbott condemned the “evil act,” writing on Twitter, “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.” CNN reported that a “witness, a cashier at a gas station across the street from the church, said she heard about 20 shots being fired in quick succession while a church service was underway around 11:30 a.m. local time.” Authorities said they haven’t found anything linking Kelley to organized terrorism groups, NBC reported.

3. The Gunman Targeted Children Who Cried & Wrote That He Did Not Fear Death

Devin Kelley’s social media accounts contained other warnings. His Facebook page contained a quote from Mark Twain about not fearing death. “I do not fear death,” it read. “I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

Authorities say the gunman approached the church around 11:20 a.m.: “He was seen dressed in all black. He started firing at the church. He moved to the right side of the church and continued to fire, then he went in the church.” He was “dressed all in black tactical type gear and was wearing a ballistic vest,” said authorities in the press conference. Two handguns, a Glock and Ruger, were discovered in the shooter’s car. The San Antonio Express-News reported that authorities were checking Kelley’s residence for explosives. It’s not clear what they found.

According to eyewitnesses who spoke to KSAT-TV, “the gunman started with the crew in charge of the camera and audio area. He then moved into the center aisle, toward those at the front of the stage with the music crew. Aisle by aisle, he continued to shoot. He would open fire point-blank on babies who cried.”

“A man in full gear came into the church and unloaded several rounds, and then took off in a vehicle,” a KSAT-TV reporter said in a live report on Facebook Live. “Officials say 23 people were found dead inside the church, two outside, one transported and died later,” reported CBS News. The sheriff told the AP that the parishioners were trapped. “I don’t think they could have escaped. You’ve got your pews on either side,” he said. Hunter Green, 16, also told the wire service that the people in the church would have nowhere to go to escape because of how the building was configured.

Reporter Matt Massey wrote that “neighbors say they heard shooter may have reloaded multiple times, around 50 people usually at service.” He reported that at least six helicopters were called in to transport victims. The chase ended in Guadalupe County.

A heroic neighbor intervened. Summer Caddel said her boyfriend, Johnnie Langendorff, “called her moments after the shooting at First Baptist Church and told her that he saw a gunfight between the shooter and a neighbor, who was returning fire,” according to KSAT-TV. “Langendorff then told Caddel the suspect — identified as Devin Patrick Kelley — then got into an SUV and drove away, and the two gave chase.” She said that the car then crashed. It’s now believe that Kelley, wounded from the neighbor’s gunfire, shot himself to death. Langendorff was just driving past when he saw two men exchanging gunfire.

People on Twitter and Facebook wrote within minutes that a man, possibly with an assault rifle, had shot multiple people. People posted frantic messages on social media about loved ones. KSAT-TV reported, “The church is located in the 500 block of 4th Street in the small, south Texas town about 40 miles east of San Antonio.” (Recent population figures said the town has only 362 people.)

Assault rifle reports first originated on social media. “Oh my God if you live in Sutherland Springs or Wilson County please go in side and stay safe. My family just called me freaking out because across the street from their house a guy with an assault rifle started shooting in our town church and even shot my brothers house. If ur from my hometown go inside, lock ur doors and so be safe and I love you all,” wrote one woman on Facebook.

4. Multiple Children Were Among the Victims, Including the Pastor’s Teenage Daughter, Who Was Remembered as a ‘Beautiful, Special Child’

The toll on children was horrific, and includes four children shot from a single family, 5-year-old children shot, and an 8-year-old child who hid under a pew. The trauma to families was immense. Joann Ward, 30, and her daughters, Brooke Ward, 5, and Emily Garza, 7, were fatally shot, their family told the Dallas Morning News. Ward’s son, Ryland Ward, 5, was the child who was shot four times and underwent surgery Sunday. It is not known if he will survive. Another daughter, Rhianna Garza, was not shot (she hid under a pew after a bullet broke her glasses).

The family’s husband and father, Chris Ward, was sleeping because he works the night shift, and his brother woke him up to the news; they helped carry bloodied, injured people from the church, Buzzfeed reported.

According to Buzzfeed, one of the reasons a lot of children were victims was because they had just come back from Sunday School and were in the rear of the church building.

Pastor Frank Pomeroy oversees the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Pomeroy’s wife, Sherri, told NBC News that her husband was out of town during the shooting, but their daughter was inside. Frank Pomeroy later told ABC News that their daughter, Annabelle, 14, was one of those killed. Pomeroy described Annabelle as “one very beautiful special child” to ABC News. Over and over again, people offering condolences on the Facebook page of the pastor’s wife described Annabelle’s sweet demeanor.

“My husband and I were ironically out of town in two different states. We lost our 14-year-old daughter today and many friends,” Sherri Pomeroy said Sunday to CBS News. “Neither of us have made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation. I am at the Charlotte airport trying to get home as soon as I can.”

First Baptist Church, of Sutherland Springs, Texas, has posted videos of its services on YouTube. Authorities revealed Monday, November 6 that there is video evidence from inside the church that they’ve reviewed, although it hasn’t been released to the public.

Youth are heavily involved in the church. “The youth are also involved in many outreach and community service activities such as visiting a local nursing home, running a concession stand, helping neighbors clear property after a storm and participating in our church workdays,” its website states. “We meet every Wednesday at 7:00 PM, Thursday at 7:00 PM and Sunday at 9:45 AM. Come as you are. We are looking forward to meeting you!”

According to the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung, “Nick Uhlig, 34, is a church member who didn’t go Sunday morning because he was out late Saturday night. He said his cousins were at the church and that his family was told at least one of them, a woman with three children and pregnant with another, is among the dead. He said he hadn’t heard specific news about the other.” Crystal Holcombe, John Holcombe’s pregnant wife, was named as being among the dead, along with three of her children and her in-laws.

“We just gathered to bury their grandfather on Thursday,” he said to the local newspaper. “This is the only church here. We have Bible study, men’s Bible study, vacation Bible school.” George Hill told The Los Angeles Times, “I lost a niece who was pregnant and three of her babies.”

Karla Holcombe was identified by a friend to The Daily Beast as one of the deceased victims. “Holcombe—a mother of four and grandmother—was a generous and loving person who at one point volunteered at a prison and taught Sunday school classes,” the site reported. Her husband, Bryan, was also among the dead, reported The New York Times, which quoted a daughter as saying the couple wasn’t afraid of death because of their “strong faith.”

According to the church’s Fall Festival photo album, Bryan Holcombe was the guy in the referee costume who helped children at the bouncy house. He was filling in as pastor and was killed by a shot to the back, reported UK Daily Mail. “Bryan Holcombe’s son’s, Scott Holcombe, told CNN he had met shooter Devin Kelley in the past and he’s confident Kelley would have known and spoken to every single person in that church community,” the network reported.

It was a tranquil scene in a church said to value diversity that would soon be shattered.

5. Devin Kelley Was Married in 2014 to a Woman Who Reportedly Once Taught at the Church

Danielle Shields, Devin Kelley wife, Devin Patrick Kelley wife, Devin Kelly family, Devin Kelley children, Devin Kelley parents

FacebookDanielle Shields’ Facebook profile photo.

The Facebook page of Kelley’s wife says they were married in April 2014. People filled her page with negative comments, accusing her husband of being everything from ISIS to Antifa, although, as noted, there is no evidence of such and, in fact, he appears to have had a personal tie to the church through his wife’s mother. Her page also contains a photo of two small children, including an infant. On Instagram, Danielle, now going by the name Danielle Shields, wrote, “Danielle Kelley Mom life ❤ nature enthusiast ??? free spirit ? married to my best friend? dog fanatic ??.” She liked a women for Trump page on Facebook.

Court records in Comal County show they got married in April 2014, when he was 23 and she was 19. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), told The LosAngeles Times of the motive, “I’ve been talking to some community members. They think there was a relative there. It was not random…There’s going to be some sort of nexus between the shooter and this small community… somebody in that church will help us find answers.”

Devin Kelley married Tessa K. Kelley, his first wife, in 2011, when she was 18 and he was 20, online records show.

The San Antonio Express-News also reported, “Kelley wasn’t believed to be a member of First Baptist Church, but had ties to the church through family members.” UK Daily Mail reported that Danielle “was previously a teacher at the First Baptist Church.” The sheriff revealed on November 6 that Danielle’s parents, despite their ties to the church, were not there when the shooting unfolded. His wife’s whereabouts had not been reported. Danielle was Facebook friends with members of the pastor’s family and the Holcombes.

The news of the shooting broke first on social media as citizens with instant access to a national audience reported that their loved ones were in peril or had witnessed aspects of the shooting or its aftermath. One man said that people he knew were inside the church. He wrote on Facebook, “Just got a call from (named removed) prayers needed for Sutherland Springs community. Someone went into the Baptist Church and shot 15 people. The guy is one the run and they have the roads closed down. (Names removed) were at their church in LaVernia. Please keep prayers going.”

The church’s pastor is prone to colorful metaphor. According to the Herald-Zeitung, “In the most recent service, posted Oct. 29, Frank Pomeroy parked a motorcycle in front of his lectern and used it as a metaphor in his sermon for having faith in forces that can’t be seen, whether it be gravity or God.” The pastor said, according to the newspaper, “I don’t look at the moment, I look at where I’m going and look at what’s out there ahead of me,” Pomeroy said. “I’m choosing to trust in the centripetal forces and the things of God he’s put around me.”

This is how some of the earliest accounts sounded: “I’m hearing there was a shooting at the First Baptist Church on 539 near Hartfield Rd in the Sutherland Springs area. Lots of sheriff’s deputies on scene, blocking traffic. EMS from all over Wilson County have been called in. Multiple victims,” one social media user wrote. Another man wrote on Facebook, “A bunch of people have been shot in Sutherland springs . The church and gas station people walked in and started shooting so far herd 15 dead maybe more.” People gathered at a local community center to learn about their loved ones.

Witness Carrie Matula told NBC News: “We heard semi-automatic gunfire… we’re only about 50 yards away from this church.”

The mass shooting has a weary country grieving and debating how to prevent such tragedies from continuing to occur. According to the LosAngeles Times, “The top five deadliest shootings in modern American history have all come in the last 10 years, with two of them in the past six weeks: the Oct. 1 shootings in Las Vegas, which killed 58, and now, the shooting in Sutherland Springs.” The largest mass shooting before Sutherland Springs in Texas dates back to 1991 in Killeen.

This article is being updated as more is learned about the mass shooting.