A gunman massacred at least 26 worshipers and wounded 20 others at a church in southeast Texas on Sunday, carrying out the latest in a series of mass shootings that have plagued the United States, Reuters reports, citing authorities.
The shooting occurred at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in Wilson County, about 65 km. east of San Antonio.
The lone suspect, wearing black clothing, entered the building and began firing, according to a statement from the Texas Department of Public Safety. After the shooting, he fled in his vehicle and was later found dead in neighboring Guadalupe County. The circumstances of the gunman’s death are still under investigation, the state agency said.
Neither the suspect’s identity nor motive were disclosed by authorities. But law enforcement officials who were not identified have said the gunman as a white, 26-year-old man, the New York Times and other media reported.
The 14-year-old daughter of pastor Frank Pomeroy was killed, the family told several television stations.
Jeff Forrest, a 36-year-old military veteran who lives a block away from the church, said what sounded like high-caliber, semi-automatic gunfire triggered memories of his four combat deployments with the Marine Corps.
“I was on the porch, I heard 10 rounds go off and then my ears just started ringing,” Forrest said. “I hit the deck and I just lay there.”
The massacre comes just weeks after a sniper killed 58 people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The shootings have stirred a years-long national debate over whether easy access to firearms was contributing to the trend.
President Donald Trump said he was monitoring the situation while in Japan on a 12-day Asian trip.
“May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene,” he said on Twitter.
According to the witnesses, about 20 shots rang out at 11:30 a.m. local time during the church services, according to media reports. It was unclear how many worshippers were inside at the time.
After the shooting, the suspect sped away in a car and was soon cornered by sheriff’s deputies just outside of Wilson County in Guadalupe County, Wiley told Reuters. He did not know if the shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot or was killed by deputies.
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