Family situation spurred gunman

'This was not racially motivated'

  • Published 7.11.17
Alleged pictures of the Sutherland Springs shooter Devin P. Kelley that were widely distributed on social media sites. (AFP)

Sutherland Springs, Texas: Law enforcement officers investigating the mass shooting at a church that killed 26 people here said on Monday that "a domestic situation" within the gunman's family may have motivated the killing.

"The suspect's mother-in-law attended this church," Freeman Martin, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said during a news conference on Monday morning. "We know that he had made threatening texts and we can't go into detail into that domestic situation that is continuing to be vetted and thoroughly investigated."

"This was not racially motivated, it wasn't over religious beliefs, it was a domestic situation going on," Martin added.

The moments following the horrific mass shooting on Sunday morning came into clearer view on Monday, as the county sheriff detailed a firefight and car chase that ended with the gunman, Devin P. Kelley, 26, dead after a crash.

The recurrent bursts of gunfire were the first sign of trouble at the First Baptist Church in this rural Texas town, but even that said little about the horrors that had befallen the faithful at their house of worship.

Inside, pools of blood splattered across the small church led back to dozens of dead and dying parishioners.

As many as 14 children and a pregnant woman lay lifeless. Those dead inside the church ranged from 18 months to 77 years of age, according to law enforcement officials.

Sheriff Joe Tackitt of Wilson county said that law enforcement found "blood everywhere" inside the church. "Wherever you walked in the church, there was death," he said.

Sheriff Tackitt said he believed the gunman went around the outside of the church firing rounds before entering and shooting at parishioners. After he left the church, he and an armed bystander engaged in a brief "firefight" before Kelley got into his vehicle, according to the sheriff.

The gunman had dropped his rifle in the church after slaughtering the parishioners; he pulled a pistol during his exchange with the bystander.

Kelley contacted his father from his cellphone during the chase to tell him that he had been shot, according to law enforcement. Kelley told his father that he "didn't think he was going to make it". He subsequently shot himself, though officials said they were not yet sure if that shot had caused his death.

Left behind at the church alongside the bodies were 30-round magazines and "dozens of rounds" of ammunition, potentially hundreds. The sheriff said he had seen nothing to suggest that the gunman had modified his weapon to make it act like an automatic firearm, like the gunman in Las Vegas.

New York Times News Service