The 14-year-old daughter of a Southern Baptist pastor was reportedly among 26 people killed when an armed man opened fire during Sunday morning (Nov. 5) worship services at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a congregation about 35 miles southeast of San Antonio.
Screen capture from CNN
The 14-year-old daughter of a Southern Baptist pastor was among at least two dozen people killed when an armed man opened fire during Sunday morning (Nov. 5) worship services at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a Southern Baptist congregation about 35 miles southeast of San Antonio.
The pastor, Frank Pomeroy, and his wife were both out of town when the attack occurred, said Mitch Kolenovsky, a field ministry strategist with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), who contacted the pastor.
Medical helicopters evacuated at least 15 injured people, which reportedly included several children. Reports indicate that about 20 people were injured, with the victims ranging in age from 5 to 72 years old. At least eight of the people killed were members of one family.
Witnesses told reporters the gunman was wearing tactical gear when he entered the sanctuary about 11:30 a.m. and reloaded his weapon multiple times during the attack.
Authorities said the shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, was dead. Reports indicate he was married and a resident of San Antonio suburb, New Braunfels. He was in the U.S. Air Force and served in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge. For assault on his spouse and their child, he was court-martialed in 2012 and served a year in confinement. His rank was reduced, and he received a bad conduct discharge.
Wilson County Commissioner Albert Gamez Jr. told reporters the gunman fled the church after the shooting and was pursued by a local citizen and deputies. It is not known whether he was killed by law enforcement or died of self-inflicted injuries.
The congregation is affiliated with the SBTC and reports average Sunday School attendance of 65 and worship attendance of 100. Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, said chaplains are being mobilized to help members of the community deal with the trauma.
Richards told Baptist Press: “We’re calling our churches to prayer for our brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs. We don’t know the details yet but early reports indicate that several people have lost their lives in this tragedy. We will … find ways to support this dear church. We pray God’s mercy and comfort on those who are grieved and those who are wounded.”
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., echoed the sentiment:
“We are praying for the families of those who were killed as well as those who were wounded. We pray that God will lay His merciful hand of healing on all who have suffered and have been injured. May God bring healing and hope to the church and the city. May God bless all the police officers serving in that area. And may God prevent further incidents like this throughout our nation in the days to come. Our hearts and prayers are with you.”
Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, also called on Christians to unite in prayer for families affected by the shooting.
“I am calling the Southern Baptist Convention to prayer for the people of Sutherland Springs Texas and particularly for our sister church members at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs Texas,” Page said. “Sadly, another morning of worship and praise and Bible study turned into a horrific scene of violence and many innocent lives were altered in an instant. God help us all as we deal with an evil that takes the life of the innocent.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Twitter: “Our prayers are with all who were harmed by this evil act. Our thanks to law enforcement for their response.” President Donald Trump tweeted, “May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas.”
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, shared via Twitter: “Another church shooting. Lord have mercy.”
North Carolina Baptists weighed in via social media.
C.J. Bordeaux, director of missions of Pee Dee Baptist Association and former president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, shared about the incident on his Facebook page today: “It is a very sad day when as [p]astors we now need to go into our pulpits, armed and packing. Evil is everywhere, even in the church. Let the politicians talk about gun control, but gun control would not fix this…this is evil pure and simple and it is like a cascading waterfall…it is only getting worse! Our prayers and sympathy with the church and families … .”
Hector Miray, pastor for the Lumberton location of Vertical Church, said, “My heart is broken for the victims of the Texas [c]hurch shooting, as well as the dark hearts that commit actions like these,” on his Facebook page.
Bob Lowman, director of missions for Metrolina Baptist Association, and Mark Harrison, missions pastor of Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, used their Facebook pages to call people to pray for these church members and this community.
“Sad! Sad! Sad,” Ray Carr, pastor of Baptist Center Church in Clayton, said, “but God is still on His throne. Pray for all those who have been affected by this sad situation.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dianna L. Cagle, Biblical Recorder production editor, contributed to this story.)