At least 26 people were killed and about 20 were wounded when a gunman opened fire inside a church in Texas during a Sunday service, authorities say. The shooter was chased down by town residents and was found dead after a crash, according to police. A motive for the attack is not yet known.
The shooter, a 26-year-old man dressed in all black and wearing tactical gear, used an AR-15-style rifle in the devastating shooting during the 11 a.m. service at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. He was eventually shot by a “Texas hero,” Stephen Willeford, and then chased down by Willeford and another “Good Samaritan,” Johnnie Langendorff, before fatally shoot himself.
The church is located in a small town of about 360 people east of San Antonio. The small church has about 40 to 50 people at its services each week. Photos on its Facebook page show the community gathering together for events, including a Fall Festival held on November 1. Many of the victims were family members or knew each other well. The church was a close community, town residents say, with many attending services there for several years. One family, the Holcombes, lost nine members, spread over three generations and including an unborn child.
Pastor Frank Pomeroy, and his wife, Sherri, were not in attendance at the church on Sunday. But their 14-year-old daughter was among those killed, the family said.
The victims who were killed range in age from 18 months to 77, officials said, while injured victims range in age from 5 to 72.
Here are the victims of the shooting:
Annabelle Pomeroy, 14
Annabelle Renee Pomeroy, the 14-year-old daughter of Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife, Sherri Newman Pomeroy, was among those killed in the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, the pastor told ABC News. Frank and Sherri Pomeroy were out of town in Oklahoma on a trip. They rarely missed the Sunday service at their church. He told ABC that Annabelle, his youngest daughter, “was one very beautiful, special child.”
Sherri Pomeroy posted a photo of her daughter at the pool on her Facebook page and told ABC News that being by the water was her favorite thing to do.
“We lost our 14-year-old daughter today and many friends,” she told NBC News. “Neither of us have made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation.”
The church services were filmed and posted to YouTube each week. During the October 30 service, Frank Pomeroy brought his motorcycle to the front of the church, using the Harley Davidson as an example of how everyone should “lean in” to their relationship with God, like a biker leans into a turn. He also talked about taking motorcycle rides with Annabelle:
“Lean on the Lord. Though it may not make sense in our finite mind, just as leaning into a turn may not mistake, leaning into God is the way we should go. Because God’s got it figured out, whether we do or not,” Pomeroy said during his sermon. “I love it when I can go out and ride on the bike. … It’s been neat lately, Annabelle’s been wanting to ride with me and go with me here and there. … The bike was showing 34 degrees this morning and she was a trooper, she did not complain. She just sat back there behind me and rode. … And we had a good time coming in, it was a beautiful ride, yes it was a little chilly, but watching the sun come up over, the sun was just coming up.”
Karla Holcombe, 58, & Bryan Holcombe, 60
A couple who had been married for 25 years, Bryan and Karla Holcombe, were among those killed in the shooting. Their son, Danny Holcombe, and 17-month-old granddaughter, Noah, were also killed, along with their daughter-in-law, Crystal Holcombe. Crystal’s husband, John, survived the shooting, but three of her five children were also killed, the San Antonio Express-News reports. Her other two kids were shot, and are in critical condition.
Karla Plain Holcombe, a 58-year-old retired mother of four, grandmother and Sunday School teacher, was killed in the shooting, her friend, Jenna Brown, told The Daily Beast.
Bryan Holcombe, 60, was also killed, their son, Scott Holcombe, told the New York Times. “I’m dumbfounded. This is unimaginable. My father was a good man and he loved to preach. He had a good heart,” he said. He was filling in as pastor with Frank Pomeroy out of town.
Sarah Slavin, the Holcombes daughter, told the Times, “They weren’t afraid of death. They had a strong faith, so there’s comfort in that. I feel like my parents, especially my mom, wasn’t scared.”
“We loved Karla and Karla loved us,” Brown, who knew Holcombe from their days at nearby First Baptist Church Floresville, told The Daily Beast. “I cannot believe this happened.” Brown told the news site that she saw Holcombe, who owned a canvas repair shop in Floresville with her husband for several years before their retirement, at the Sutherland Springs church’s Fall Festival last week. “She was joking and just as happy as always,” Brown said.
A friend, Robin Newman Czarnek, wrote on Facebook, “So many wonderful people lost their lives today and I am at a loss as to what to do to help. Karla Plain Holcombe, you were truly an exceptional role model and example of how to live your life for Christ. I’m so thankful and better for having known you.”
Crystal Holcombe, 36, & Her Children, Megan, Emily, Greg & an Unborn Child
Crystal Champion Holcombe, 36, was killed alongside three of her children, Megan, Emily and Greg, and her in-laws, Bryan and Karla Holcombe, at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Her brother-in-law, Danny, and niece, Noah, were also killed.
Holcombe was pregnant, her cousin, Nick Uhlig, told The Associated Press. Her husband, John, survived the shooting. Their two other children, including a 3-year-old boy, were wounded and are in critical condition, Uhlig told the San Antonio Express-News. Her unborn child is included in the 26 victims of the shooting.
“She doesn’t even drink, smoke or nothing,” Uhlig told the newspaper “She just takes care of kids; she raises goats and makes homemade cheese. That kind of thing, you know? They don’t go out dancing or anything like that. They’re real old-fashioned, down-to-earth.”
She posted a photo on Halloween at the church in costumes with two of her daughters:
“We received some very hard news,” her sister posted on Facebook. “Thank you all for your prayers. We ask that you please continue to keep us in your prayers and give our family privacy as we deal with this very difficult time.”
Danny Holcombe, 36, & Noah Holcombe, 17 Months
Marc Daniel Holcombe, 36, the son of Karla and Bryan Holcombe, died in the shooting along with his 17-month-old daughter, Noah, CNN reports. Holcombe, who went by Danny, was at the church with his parents and other family, including his brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews.
“It’s of course going to be difficult,” Joe Holcombe, Danny’s grandfather, told the Washington Post. But, “we are Christians, we have read the book. We know the ending, and it’s good.”
Tara McNulty, 33
Tara Elyse McNulty, a mother of two, was killed in the shooting. She was a close friend of the Holcombe family, and lived with Bryan and Karla. She called them mom and dad, according to CNN. Her two children, Hailey and James were wounded in the shooting, said Kevin Koenen, the owner of The Aumont Saloon, in Seguin, Texas, where McNulty worked.
“Tara was killed in the shooting at the church, her kids were also wounded but pulled through and have a long road to recovery. This is a huge loss. Tara was very kind hearted person great employee,” he wrote. Koenen is organizing a benefit at The Aumont Saloon for November 12.
“She was conscientious, engaging, and always willing to do the little things. She was a sweet, kind and loving woman, mother and daughter and will be greatly missed by many. Words cannot express the sadness that this tragedy has caused,” Amy Woodall wrote on a GoFundMe campaign page. “The funds will be used for funeral expenses, medical expenses for her children, and any other expenses that her children will incur. thank you so much for your donation. It is greatly appreciated!”
Amber Maricle told The Washington Post she texted McNulty, her best friend, Sunday night after hearing the news of the shooting, writing, “the shooting was so close to you,” and adding a crying emoji. She never heard back, and learned Monday that her friend had died.
“She was like me, she was like my soul sister,” Maricle told the newspaper. “We could literally finish each other’s sentences. It was an immediate bond.”
Elaina Mendez told the newspaper, “Tara was so much more than a friend she was my sister my strength a amazing mom and a good Christian with morals and faith like you don’t see today.”
Lula Woicinski White, 71
Lula Woicinski White, a longtime member of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, was among the victims killed in the shooting. White, 71, was the grandmother of the shooter’s wife. Her daughter, the shooter’s mother-in-law, Michelle Shields, was also a member of the church. Her niece shared her last Facebook post, which was about the “spark of life.”
“This was my aunt’s last post before she was murdered this morning in the church shooting. I have no doubt where she is right now. She is in Heaven laying her crowns and jewels at the feet of Jesus and celebrating. I love and will miss you Aunt Lula Woicinski White,” she wrote.
White, a graduate of McCollum High School, was an important member of the church. On her Facebook page, she described her role as “Do what’s needed at FBC Sutherland Springs.”
Her sister, Mary Mishler Clyburn, told the New York Daily News, ““My sister was a wonderful, caring person — a God-loving person. She loved the people in her church. They were all her best friends. I miss her badly already. We texted every day. We loved each other to the moon and back.”
Kim Mitchell, a church member, wrote on Facebook, “This is Mrs Lula Woicinski White I’m just devastated you left this Earth! I do know your watching me from Heaven. I always told you I loved you. Just wish we had gone to get our tattoo together! Maybe you can get one in heaven. My heart is broken! Till we meet again! There are so many to be remembered! Please hug your loved ones!”
Her niece, Charity Sales, said on Facebook, “Aunt Lula Woicinski White will be missed greatly, I don’t think there was ever a time I saw her she didn’t have a smile on her face and a crazy fun tactic up her sleeve.”
Joann Ward, 30, Brooke Ward, 5 & Emily Garcia, 7
Joann Ward, 30, and her daughters, Brooke Ward, 5, and Emily Garcia, 7, were fatally shot at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, their family told the Dallas Morning News. Ward’s son, Ryland Ward, 5, was shot four times and underwent surgery Sunday. It is not known if he will survive. Another daughter, Rhianna Garcia, was not shot.
“It’s unreal at first. The church of all places,” Michael Ward told the Dallas Morning News. Ward’s brother, Chris, often attends the service with Joann and the children, but worked the night shift and didn’t. Michael Ward rushed to his brother’s house Sunday, he told the newspaper.
“He was pissed at me,” Michael said. “I said, ‘I’m not lying to you, Chris, they’re all shot.”
Sandy Ward was at the hospital with her son, Chris. “He’s a wreck, of course, as you can imagine,” she told NBC News. I’m just in shock. I’m numb. My whole body’s just numb.”
Haley Krueger, 16
Haley Krueger, 16, was among the victims of the church shooting, her mother’s friend says on a GoFundMe campaign.
“Haley Krueger was a beautiful, vibrant, 16 year old girl, and was excited about the bright future ahead of her. She loved babies, and had dreams of becoming a NICU nurse. In her mother’s words ‘Haley loved life and was the most dramatic person,'” Tasha Niemann Wiatrek wrote.
Haley’s mother, Charlene Uhl, told People that her daughter regularly attended services at the church and often arrived early to help prepare breakfast for the other members.
“She just loved life and loved everybody she met,” Uhl told the magazine. “She loved her church. She was always hyper and ready for anything. She wanted to go to school and be a nurse in the NICU. She loved babies. She had two nephews and adored both of them. I already miss her so much.”
Uhl said her daughter’s death comes two years after her father died suddenly.
“As her mother and family enter the long road of grievance and healing, we want to assist them in any way possible. Especially in the upcoming days, struggling to coordinate and plan arrangements that lie head of them. This horrendous tragedy happened so sudden, and emotionally nor financially can anyone be prepared. We are asking that you open your hearts to this dear family and help us in gathering financial support as they mourn sweet Haley’s tragic passing,” Wiatrek wrote on GoFundMe. You can make a donation here.
Robert Corrigan, 51, & Shani Corrigan, 51
Robert and Shani Corrigan, high school sweethearts originally from Michigan who had been married for 32 years, were killed together in the shooting, according to WPBN-TV. They are survived by their children, including two sons serving in the Air Force, and grandchildren. Robert was retired from the Air Force and worked for WellMed Medical Management, according to his Facebook page.
A vigil was held in their hometown, Harrison, Michigan, on Tuesday.
“Just heard official news that a good friend and fellow Airman and his wife were among those killed at the senseless church shooting in Sutherland Springs TX. Bob and Shani had lost their son a year back and now are hopefully back together,” David Roll wrote on Facebook. “Bob loved playing guitar for the church music ministry more than anything else and was likely doing that when him and Shani were killed. I feel blessed to have known them both.”
It is not clear when they moved to Texas, but the couple had taken an active role in the First Baptist Church community. On October 29, during the last service posted to YouTube, Robert Corrigan played the guitar and also led a reading.
Dennis Johnson, 77, & Sara Johnson, 68
Dennis and Sara Johnson were identified by Dennis’ sister-in-law, Tawnya Roberts Spence, as being among the victims of the shooting.
“With a very heavy, heavy heart,we have found out that Freddy’s aunt and uncle, Dennis and Sara Johnson were victims of the Sutherland Springs Church shooting and both perished together inside the church,” she wrote on Facebook. It’s still very hard to believe that such a thoughtless crime has happened like this, I hope all the family can find peace in their hearts as they go through this very sad tragedy. .may God be with y’all …. my heart is broken…”
Their nephew, Freddy Spence Jr., wrote on Facebook, “R.I.P to my uncle Dennis and my aunt Sara they were victims in the church shooting, I’m lost for words and still in shock.”
Sue Harris, Dennis’ sister, wrote, “Thank you all for your kind thoughts and prayers. Please continue to pray for all who loss love ones. I do find comfort knowing Dennis and Sara are will the Lord.”
R. Scott Marshall, 58, & Karen Marshall, 56
Karen Marshall and her husband R. Scott Marshall were at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs trying out a new place to worship, family members told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The couple, originally from Pennsylvania, had moved back to their home in La Vernia, Texas, after Karen, a master sergeant in the Air National Guard, had finished a posting at Andrews Air Force Base. She had retired from military service with the end of that posting, on October 27, according to a post on her husband’s Facebook page.
Scott Marshall served in the Air Force and worked as a civilian contractor at Lackland Air Force Base in Bexar County, Texas. They met 32 years ago while serving in the military, their family said.
Together they had a son, two daughters and five grandchildren.
“Unbelievable long time friends Scott and Karen Marshall were taken in the Texas church this Sunday. Karen had just retired, Scott had his new truck, looking to the next adventure,” Charlie Meder wrote on Facebook. “Scott and Karen loved each other and the Lord. Scott used to find the funny side of any problem.”
Holly Hannum, Scott’s sister, wrote on Facebook, “I’m beyond broken hearted. Please keep their children and grand children in prayers along with our families who are trying to make sense of this tragedy. I apologize to any family or friends that have not heard the news of their tragic passing. Hold tight your loved ones…..life is gone too soon.”
Richard Rodriguez, 64, & Therese Rodriguez, 66
Richard and Therese Rodriguez were identified as victims of the shooting by Richard’s daughter, Regina Amador, according to People magazine. The couple had been married since 2006.
“They were really involved in their church,” Amador told People. “If they were not at church, they’d be in the back yard, working on a garden. They were amazing people.”
Amador told the magazine, “I lost my mom when I was 18. It just sucks because I have to go through this again. I’ve just been crying and crying. I’m at my family’s now – my dad came from a big family, and had tons of sisters and brothers. We’ve just been sitting around a table, reminiscing, looking at pictures of them. I can’t believe this is happening, but it’s happening.”
Roxanne Martinez wrote on Facebook that Richard was a “father figure that God put in my life as a young child.” She said, “This gives me peace just knowing that I will be in heaven with my loved ones one day. That we will have an eternity together. This is not my forever home. I’m just passing through with only moments with people. I hope and pray that they see Christ in me. I’m trying to take as many people as I can with me and share the love of Christ. I’ve been crying all morning. I’m devastated. Thank you Richard Rodriguez For Loving Me like a daughter. For being there for me at times when you didn’t even know you were. To be hugged and comforted by you meant so much to me! Thank you for loving me like one of your own! You have a pure heart of gold you will be missed dearly.”
Keith Braden, 62
Keith Braden, 62, died at the scene of the church shooting, his brother, Bruce, wrote on Facebook. Keith Braden had fought off cancer over the past few years, his brother wrote. Keith’s wife, Debbie, was shot three times and remains hospitalized after undergoing multiple surgeries, Bruce Braden said. One of their children suffered a graze wound from a bullet and their grandchild was also shot, WTHR-TV reports.
Bruce Braden told the Indianapolis Star that his brother worked at a local grocery store and his wife was a stay-at-home mother who raised their three now-grown children. Keith and his family regularly attended the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, his brother said.
He said he and his brother grew up outside Pittsburgh and Keith served in the U.S. Army. He stayed in Texas after he was stationed in San Antonio, and met Debbie there.
“He was a good father. He was strict and fair, but loving. He was a good provider and a good husband,” Bruce told the newspaper. “”My brother Keith had just fought off cancer the last couple of years. He had lost a lot of weight and hair from chemotherapy. I posted a picture on Facebook of him getting his hair and his weight back. He was hoping to have a nice number of years left to live with his family. That was taken away in an instant.”
Keith Braden worked at H-E-B at its Floresville location for 22 years, according to the San Antonio Express-News. The supermarket has started a fundraiser for the victims and their families and is donating $150,000 to the fund.
Peggy Lynn Warden, 56
Peggy Lynn Warden, died while shielding her grandson, 18-year-old Zachary Poston, from gunfire, her sister-in-law, Poston’s aunt, wrote on GoFundMe.
“Peggy stepped in front of Zachary as a shield and was fatally wounded. (She is our hero.) She saved Zachary’s life,” Korri Scheel Stevens wrote. “Zachary was shot multiple times (5 possibly 6) in the arms and legs. One of the shots fired at Zachary was sustained as he was using his foot the push a little girl under the the Church pew. She was trying to crawl out and Zachary feared if the gunman saw her he would shoot her. Because of his movement the gunman shot him, shattering his knee cap.”
Warden was a volunteer teacher at the church and had recently lost her husband to lung cancer, her brother told WOIA-TV.
“My sister spent her whole life working at the church,” Jimmy Stevens told the news station. “It was always her goal to serve and teach children the word of God. There was nothing she would have rather done. And she served people basically her whole life.”
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