By BosNewsLife Americas Service
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, USA (BosNewsLife)– A gunman in full combat gear killed and wounded dozens of people during a Sunday service at a small Baptist church in the southern U.S. State of Texas, before he died, witnesses and officials said.
The shooting spree rocked the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a small community of about 400 people located about 48 kilometers (30 miles) south-east of San Antonio.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said 26 people were confirmed dead in the “worst mass shooting” in the state’s history.
A police commissioner at the scene, Albert Gamez Jr, told reporters earlier that at least 27 people had died. A similar number of others had been wounded, he said.
Devin Keen, another local police official, said “there were kids involved” in the shooting, including a two-year-old. Other officials saud the ages of those who died ranged from five to 72.
Local police said the gunman had been “taken down.” The gunman has been identified as Devin P Kelley, 26, according to US media reports. Police have not confirmed the suspect’s identity.
The shooter reportedly died after a brief chase north into neighboring Guadalupe County, according to Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Robert Murphy.
A local citizen “grabbed his rifle and began shooting” at the suspect, before the gunman fled in a vehicle, added Texas Department of Public Safety regional director Freeman Martin.
The citizen reportedly pursued the suspect, who drove off the road and crashed his car at the Guadalupe County line.
Police found the suspect dead in his car, but it is unclear if he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound or from returned fire from the citizen.
A witness said the gunman was dressed in what looked like combat gear when he burst into the church and began shooting during the Sunday morning service.
Emergency services rushed to the church in the small town and helicopters were seen taking victims to hospitals. A large police presence could be seen at the church.
United States President Donald Trump said on the social media service Twitter from Japan: “May God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan.”
Texas Governor Abbott issued a statement, describing the shooting as a “horrific act”. “I want to thank law enforcement for their response and ask that all Texans pray for the Sutherland Springs community during this time of mourning and loss.”
It was one of the bloodiest church attacks in recent memory, though there have been several shooting sprees in the country amid an ongoing debate about the number of firearms available in the United States. The motive of the attacker was not immediately clear but came at a time when this nation is on edge after last week’s truck attack in New York killed eight people and injured more than a dozen.