Texas gunman who killed 26 ‘sent threatening texts to mother-in-law’

Devin Kelley, who was found dead in SUV after gunning down victims at church, was involved in a family dispute, according to authorities

The gunman who carried out a massacre at a small-town Texas church on Sunday was involved in a family dispute, authorities said. Twenty-six people were killed and 20 wounded in the shooting, which took place during a Sunday morning service.

There was a domestic situation going on, Freeman Martin, a spokesman for the Texas department of public safety, said at a press conference on Monday near the scene of the shooting in Sutherland Springs, about 35 miles east of San Antonio.

Martin said the named gunman, Devin Kelley, sent threatening texts to his mother-in-law. She had attended the First Baptist church in the past but was not there on Sunday.

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Texas gunman sent threatening texts to mother-in-law, say investigators video

He expressed anger towards his mother-in-law, Martin said. This was not racially motivated, it wasnt over religious beliefs.

Of the deceased, 23 died in the church, two outside and one in hospital, Martin said. Among the 20 wounded, six were in stable condition or released, four in serious condition and 10 critical. The youngest to die was aged 18 months; the oldest was 77.

Martin said the 26-year-old Kelley, who lived in New Braunfels, about 35 miles north of Sutherland Springs, was engaged by a civilian with an AR rifle a Texas hero, he said who flagged down a motorist, jumped in his vehicle and chased Kelley, who was found dead in his SUV.

Evidence at the scene indicates he may have died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Martin said.

He also appeared to have been wounded by the civilian with the AR rifle. Martin said the suspect made a call on a cellphone to tell his father he had been shot and did not think he was going to make it.

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Three guns belonging to Kelley were recovered: a Ruger rifle, a black 9mm handgun and Ruger 22 pistol were found in his vehicle, Fred Milanowski, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agent said. He also in the past had purchased another gun. Two were bought in Colorado and two in Texas, one per year from 2014 to 2017.

Authorities said there was video footage of the shooting from inside the church, which typically broadcast its services on YouTube. Kelley, dressed in all black and wearing a mask with a white skull face and a ballistic vest with a protective plate on the front, first attracted attention moments before the shooting when he was spotted at a gas station a block away from the church.

A US air force spokeswoman earlier told reporters Kelley had been in the air force and worked in logistics at a base in New Mexico. He was court-martialed in 2012 and sentenced to a year in military prison for assault on his spouse and child and received a bad conduct discharge in 2014.

Kelley was not licensed to carry a firearm openly or in a concealed fashion in public in Texas. But he did have an unarmed private security license similar to a security guard at a concert, Martin said. That meant he passed criminal background and fingerprint checks.

Kelley was employed as a night-time security guard at a New Braunfels water park over the summer and had a job in security at an RV resort at the time of the shooting, the San Antonio Express-News reported. The resort manager told the newspaper Kelley had passed a background check and was hired about six weeks ago but left work on Saturday saying he had a headache and did not show up the next day.

The pastor of First Baptist church, Frank Pomeroy, and his wife, Sherri, addressed reporters on Monday. They were away when the shooting happened. Their 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was killed.

You lean in to what you dont understand, you lean in to the Lord, Frank Pomeroy said. I dont understand but I know my God does.

Sherri Pomeroy said: We lost more than Belle yesterday and one thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement is the fact that Belle was surrounded yesterday by her church family that she loved fiercely and vice-versa.

Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife Sherri speak at a press conference. Photograph: Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty Images

Our church was not comprised of members or parishioners. We were a very close family, we ate together, we laughed together, we cried together and we worshipped together. Now most of our church family is gone, our building is probably beyond repair and the few of us that are left behind lost tragically yesterday.

As senseless as this tragedy was, our sweet Belle would not have been able to deal with losing so much family yesterday.

All the bodies had been removed from the church by Monday morning. The vicinity of the church remained closed off to the public as officials from multiple law enforcement agencies combed the area. A dozen FBI agents with metal detectors examined a patch of grass next to the building, seemingly looking for bullets.

Outside the community centre that has served as a gathering point for friends and relatives of the victims, Dana Fletcher, who owns a business in Sutherland Springs, said she had been here for a joyous event only a week earlier: the annual Old Town Day celebration, which featured a parade, music and a large crowd.

Thank God it wasnt last weekend, we had our family here, she said.

Francis Alviso, who lives nearby, arrived in a red SUV offering help and to check on the affected families. He used to go to garage sales in Sutherland Springs, he said.

When you dont have enough money to buy, theyre just like, Thats OK, take it, the 59-year-old said. Thats how great people are. They would help others.

This is a small community, I never thought it would happen somewhere like that. I live in a town like this. Tomorrow, next day, it could happen in my town.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/nov/06/texas-gunman-links-church-26-died

Author: Billy Roland

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