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26 dead in Texas church shooting

Camryn Whitman

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Around 11:20 am last Sunday, 26 year old Devin Patrick Kelley, approached the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church clad in all black tactical gear. He went to the church not to worship, but to wreak havoc on dozens of unsuspecting church goers, killing 4% of the town’s population and resulting in one of the deadliest mass shootings in Texas.

As Kelley neared the church, he opened fire and killed two people outside. He then burst into the building and released a flood of gunfire among the unarmed worshipers. As chaos ensued, 23 people were fatally shot and died inside the church. An additional  person died in the hospital from his injuries, culminating a death count of 26 people, 12 to 14 of which were children. However, even the survivors did not leave unscathed, suffering from multiple injuries from gunshot wounds to broken bones from the tumult.

Among the dead was Annabelle Pomeroy, the 14 year old daughter of the pastor, who was out of town with his wife at the time. “We lost more than Belle yesterday, and the one thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement is the fact that Belle was surrounded by her church family that she loved fiercely and vice versa,” Sherri Pomeroy said, “Now most of our church family is gone. Our building is probably beyond repair…as senseless as this tragedy was, our sweet Belle would not have been able to deal with losing so much family.”

One family, the Holcombes, lost eight members of their family. Joe and Clarisse Holcombe lost children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all at once. Their son Bryan, an associate pastor at the church, along with his wife Karla, were killed outside the church. Also killed was their granddaughter, Crystal, who was five months pregnant, along with three of her children, Emily, Megan, and Greg. Her husband and two other kids survived. Their grandson, Marc and his one year old daughter also died, said Joe and Clarisse.

Kevin Jordan was in his driveway across from the church changing his oil when Kelley opened fire. “He was just spraying at the front of the church,” Jordan said. “He was shooting outside at first, and then he walked to the door and started shooting inside.” Jordan ran inside his home, grabbed his son and wife, and hid in the bathroom. The shooter spotted him as he ran inside and shot through his window , nearly hitting his two year old son. After the gunfire stopped, Jordan, a medical assistant, went into the church to see if he could help. Once he entered, he was overwhelmed by the scene and had to leave. The walls were splattered with the blood of dozens of people, pews overturned, people on the ground screaming in pain or worse, not moving.

Among the heinousness, a hero emerged. A resident, whose name is unreleased, saw the gunman firing into the church. He ran inside, grabbed his rifle, and fired at the gunman as he exited the church. Kelley dropped his assault rifle and fled in his car, a Ford Explorer. “What do you say to the man who stepped up when he heard the gunshots? I’d say he’s a hero,” Wilson Country Sheriff Joe Tackitt said, “I don’t think there’s any question about it. Had he not done what he did, we could have lost more people.”

When he saw the Kelley fleeing, the resident hailed Langendorff ,who was driving by to visit his girlfriend, opened his Langendorff’s door, informed him of the situation, and asked him to trail the shooter with him. They chased Kelley for 11 miles until his vehicle swerved off the road. The resident guarded the car until authorities arrived and found Kelley had shot himself in his car.

Why would a young man like Dylan Patrick Kelley perform a deed as heinous as this? Authorities are still struggling to know, there is no clear motive as to why a New Braunsfels resident would travel to a small town to shoot up a church. The only lead authorities have is the fact his in-laws used to attend the church, but they were not in attendance at the time of the shooting. Mental illness may have been a factor, according to authorities.

Kelley was a member of the United States Air force when he got court marshaled for domestic violence against his wife and daughter. In 2014, he was discharged from the military for bad conduct.He applied for a license to carry a gun in Texas but was denied, according to governor Greg Abbott. “By all of the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun, so how did this happen?” Abbott said. “We are in search of answers to these questions.”

President Trump responded from Japan, trying to mitigate the effects the shooting will have on the gun law debate. He declared at a press conference in Tokyo that this was a “not a guns problem” rather it was a “mental health problem.” He added that the shooting may have been deadlier but “fortunately, somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite directions.” Georgetown High School Criminal Justice teacher, Mrs. Huey, agreed with Trump’s statement, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. And only people with mental health issues kill innocent people.”

Many have criticized officials for using the shooting to support their political agenda so soon after the shooting. Sophomore Katelyn Brackin disagrees with these critics. “I think it is appropriate. It is an event that needs to bring up discussion immediately,” She said. “Because, what if it happens again?”  Many pro- gun law advocates are quickly responding, saying Kelley shouldn’t have a gun in the first place. Likewise, anti- gun law supporters are arguing the fact there was a legal gun on the other side, in the form of the resident, saved many people. “It will provide arguments for both sides,” Said Senior Razy Rapier. “The guy shot down two dozen people with a gun, but more were saved with a legal gun. So both sides will have fuel for the fire.”

The tragic events have been meet by an onslaught of community support with member of the church and strangers alike attending a service held by pastor and father of one of the deceased, Frank Pomeroy. In wake of the death and destruction, unity has been found, a trend seen in most, if not all, mass shootings. No matter how evil and malicious an individual can be, humanity can and does win by showing we will not be torn apart, rather be brought closer together. The goal many of these shooters have can be counteracted by unimaginable bravery and kindness of both civilian bystanders and uniformed officials.

Update:

Shooter Devin Patrick Kelley had escaped from a mental health institution in 2012 after he was caught trying to sneak guns into an air force base in an attempt to carry out death threats. Additionally, the Air Force informed authorities it did not tell federal authorities about his domestic violence conviction, which would have prevented him from obtaining a gun.

Kelley was employed at a resort in New Braunsfels as an overnight security guard

Kelley appeared to have emptied 15 magazines, equal to over 100 shots.

Kelley had attended the church five days prior to the attack for a fall festival with his wife’s family, including his in-laws who attend the church. Kelley’s wife’s grandmother was killed in the shooting.

The resident who fired back at the shooter has been identified as Stephen Willeford

Sources:

Washington post

CBS News

Updated on 11/8/17 at 11:03 am

 

 

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