SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — A man opened fire inside of a church in a small South Texas community in the middle of Sunday services, leaving 26 people dead and 20 others wounded.
The gunman was later found dead of a gunshot himself. And late Sunday night, residents of the small town where it all happened gathered for a vigil as information slowly came out about the gunman.READ MORE: Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccinations Suspended Across Tri-State As Federal Health Officials Investigate Rare Blood Clots
CBS affiliate KENS 5, San Antonio reports that the shooting happened at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a rural town of about 600 people about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio.
At a news conference in Stockdale, Texas early Sunday evening, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said 26 people were been confirmed dead.
“The tragedy, of course, is worsened because it happened in a church; a place of worship,” Abbott said.
The church massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history. The Luby’s Cafeteria car ramming and shooting in Killeen, Texas in 1991 left 23 people dead. The University of Texas clock tower shooting in 1966 killed 15.
The massacre was also the deadliest church shooting in modern U.S. history.
“About half our church members are gone,” one woman said.
The woman chose not to attend the service at the last minute.
Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said there were 23 people killed in the church, two were killed outside, and another was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Officials said none of the victims had been identified as of 6:40 p.m. Eastern time. About 20 more were hospitalized in San Antonio with injuries ranging from minor to severe, Martin said.
The people who were killed ranged in age from 5 to 72, Martin said.
Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told the Wilson County News that a man entered the church and opened fire. He said the shooter is now dead.
The suspect was first spotted at 11:20 a.m. at a Valero gas station in Sutherland Springs, Martin said. He crossed the street to the church, exited the vehicle and began firing the church, Martin said.
The suspect then moved to the right side of the church and continued firing, Martin said. He then entered the church and fired still more, Martin said.
The gunman was wearing all black tactical gear and a bulletproof vest, officials said.
After the suspect opened fire, a local resident grabbed the suspect’s Ruger AR-15 type rifle and engaged him, Martin said. The gunman dropped his gun and fled the church, Martin said.
The hero neighbor shot at the suspect, and then chased the suspect’s white sport-utility vehicle, Martin said.
As law enforcement responded, the suspect ran off the roadway and crashed. He was found dead in his vehicle, Martin said.
It was not clear if the gunman was killed by a self-inflicted gunshot or if he was shot by the local resident. There were multiple weapons in the vehicle, Martin said.
Law enforcement sources told CBS News the gunman has been identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, 26.
Police late Sunday were combing through Kelley’s home about 35 miles from the shooting scene, where some neighbors said they recently heard gunshots. Investigators were also examining his social media accounts.
CBS News reported the gunman served in the U.S. Air Force from 2010 to 2014, but was court-martialed in May 2014 and was subjected to a dishonorable discharge.
Record checks indicated that Kelley served in logistics readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reported.
The offense for which Kelley was court-martialed was an assault on his spouse and their child, Martin reported.
In addition to the dishonorable discharge, Kelley was also ordered into confinement for a year, Martin reported.
Officials said the shooter does not have any obvious ties to terror groups, but the investigation was just getting under way late Sunday.
Meanwhile, CBS News reported that the 14-year-old daughter of church pastor Rev. Frank Pomeroy was among those killed. The pastor’s wife reported that she and her husband out of town at the time, CBS News reported.
“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.
She added, “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.”
CBS News’ David Begnaud also tweeted that one of the wounded victims was a 6-year-old boy named Rylan, who was shot four times. Ryan’s uncle said the boy was in surgery late Sunday afternoon.
“Every mom and dad tonight – put your arm around your kid and give your kid a big hug and let you know how much you love them,” Gov. Abbott said.
Medical teams also flew in from across the area – rushing some 20 injured victims to hospitals in addition to those killed – while stunned residents tried to make sense of the carnage.
Kevin Jordan lives nearby.
“I tried to help as many people as I could, you know? And it’s just, you can’t explain it,” Jordan said. “Your mind doesn’t want to grasp it — you know, the shock of it.”
As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, there were tears and prayers Sunday evening for the victims of the shooting. Gov. Abbott attended a candlelight vigil Sunday night.
“Be with us, dear, as we learn to deal with this in the days to come,” a woman said in a prayer earlier.
Residents struggled to comprehend the bloodshed late Sunday.
“This happens in New York; in big cities,” one woman said. “If it can happen here, guys, it can happen anywhere.”
President Donald Trump addressed the shooting in a news conference in Tokyo, calling it an “act of evil.” Trump arrived in Japan late Saturday as the first stop in a five-country, 13-day Asian tour.
“We cannot put into words the pain and grief we all feel, and we cannot begin to imagine the suffering” of those who lost loved ones, Trump said.
But Trump said Americans come together when such horrors happen.
“We pull together. We join hand, we lock arms, and through the tears and through the sadness, we stand strong – oh so strong,” Trump said.
The president said his administration will provide full support to the state of Texas and to all local authorities that are investigating.READ MORE: Police Searching For Little Girl Seen Wandering Alone On Long Island
And as to the victims’ families, Trump said, “We will never, ever leave their side – ever.”
As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, there were tears and prayers Sunday evening for the victims of the shooting.
“Be with us, dear Lord, as we learn to deal with this in the days to come,” a woman said.
A pastor from a church down the road spoke to KENS-TV late Sunday afternoon.
“We’re holding up as well as we can. We’re a strong community. We’re strong in our faith, and we’re strong in believing that anyone that was killed in the church there is present with our Lord,” the pastor said.
The pastor said he never expected any such horror to happen in Sutherland Springs.
“This is Sutherland Springs. We’re not even an incorporated city,” he said. “We have a post office over here and a ZIP code, and two gas stations, two churches and a Dollar General.”
He said he found out about the shooting himself while preaching down the road, and first responders immediately went to help.
“I know everybody there,” the pastor said.
The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were sent to the shooting, CBS News reported. A law enforcement official said an FBI crisis response team was also sent to the scene to offer assistance to local police, CBS News investigative producer Pat Milton reports.
Officials from around the country offered their condolences.
Vice President Mike Pence tweeted he and his wife, Karen, “send prayers to victims & their families in TX.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) called the reports out of Texas “devastating.”
“The people of Sutherland Spring need our prayers right now,” Ryan tweeted.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement Sunday afternoon:
“My heart breaks for the victims of the horrific tragedy in Texas earlier today. These mass shootings have become appallingly and unforgivably common in our society, but we must not become numb to tragedy. We cannot accept mass shootings as part of who we are — this can and must stop. In the memories of those we lost today in Texas, and last month in Las Vegas, and last year in Orlando, and all across this nation, we must come together and say: enough is enough.
“Our hearts break for those men, women and children we lost on this darkest of days, and they break doubly because we have seen this too many times before. I join all New Yorkers in mourning this senseless tragedy.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a tweet reading, “New York City prays for the town of #SutherlandSprings and mourns the tragic loss of life in so sacred a place.”
On Long Island, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and police Commissioner Patrick Ryder offered their “condolences, thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families and to the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas in light of the recent incident.”
While there were no known imminent threats to Nassau County, police there have intensified patrols in all areas of concern.
“We are monitoring this attack along with federal, state, and local authorities,” the Nassau County statement said.
Long Island U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-New York) tweeted, “All our thoughts and prayers must be with the victims of today’s Church massacre in Texas and their family members and friends.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) said he was “heartbroken” for those affected by the shooting – and he called on Congress to act.
“Horror, heartbreak, shame. Prayers are important but insufficient. After another unspeakable tragedy, Congress must act – or be complicit,” Blumenthal wrote in the wake of the shooting.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “Now is the time for commonsense gun violence prevention steps. Congressional complicity must end.”
In Blumenthal’s Connecticut five years ago next month, 20 students and six educators were killed when Adam Lanza opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
He has since become a vocal critic of members of Congress calling for “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of similar violent shootings — most recently joining the chorus of fellow senators calling for a revision in the nation’s gun laws in the days that followed last month’s Las Vegas massacre.
Fellow U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), who is another vocal critic of gun violence, tweeted his reaction to the shooting, writing, “Oh my God.”
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)