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5 Nov, 2017 19:01

At least 26 killed in Texas church attack, gunman dead

At least 26 people have been killed after a gunman opened fire inside a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The shooter later died, officials said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbot confirmed that at least 26 people had lost their lives in the shooting, and said the death toll could climb higher. At least 20 more were wounded in the attack. Witnesses reported seeing the man walk into the Baptist Church in the town 30 miles from San Antonio at 11:30am local time Sunday, according to KSAT-12.

The assailant first opened fire outside the church before proceeding to go on a shooting spree inside, DPS Regional Director Freeman Martin said at a news briefing. The suspect was engaged in a firefight by an armed local resident as he exited the building, forcing him to drop his automatic rifle and attempt to flee. As he escaped the scene in a vehicle, the resident proceeded to chase him.

“There was some gunfire exchanged, I believe, on the roadway also, and then (the shooter's vehicle) wrecked out," Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told CBS News on Monday morning. “At this time we believe that he had a self-inflicted gunshot wound, after he wrecked out.”

The attacker was found dead in his car as it crashed down the road, Martin added, noting that it was not clear whether his death was self-inflicted or he was killed by the local resident. “Multiple weapons” were found in the gunman’s car, the police said after inspecting it.

The suspect was wearing all-black tactical gear and a ballistic vest at the time of the attack.

The shooter was identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, a resident of New Braunfels, near San Antonio, Texas Department of Public Safety said on Twitter.

Police have reportedly already raided his home. It appears from Kelley’s purported profile on LinkedIn that he served in the US Air Force until 2013 and briefly taught at a summer religious school.

The victims’ names have not been released either, with Audrey Louis, Wilson County District Attorney, saying that officials want to first notify the families before telling the media the identities of those killed and injured.

Some 20 people, of ages 5 to 72, were taken to hospitals with their injuries ranging from “minor to severe,” Martin said. The motive of the shooter is so far unclear.

Local pastor Frank Pomeroy’s daughter, Annabel, was killed in the shooting, her father confirmed to ABC News. Annabel, 14, “was one very beautiful, special child,” said the pastor, who was on his way from Oklahoma to Sutherland Springs when the tragedy unfolded.

An eyewitness told CBS News that there was a heavy police presence on the road to the church, adding that they had seen people being airlifted from the area.

Abbott called the attack “the largest mass shooting in our state’s history.” Extending his condolences to the relatives of the victims, he added that the “tragedy of course is worsened by the fact that it occurred in a church.”

“We join hands and lock arms, and through the tears and through the sadness we stand strong, oh so strong,” US President Donald Trump said in his remarks from Japan, vowing to provide “full support to the great state of Texas and all local authorities investigating this horrible crime.”

Trump has declared a nationwide three-day period of mourning for the victims, ordering flags to be flown at half-mast in all US territories and at diplomatic missions from Monday through Wednesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent condolences to Donald Trump over the deadly shooting, RIA Novosti has reported. “It is difficult to imagine a more cruel and cynical crime than killing people during a church service,” he said.

A vigil has been held in Sutherland Springs, led by Governor Abbot, with dozens of residents lighting candles in memory of the victims.