What was supposed to be a regular church service turned into tragedy after a white male in his 20s opened fire with an assault type-rifle, killing 26 people and injuring dozens more in what Texans referred to as the worst mass shooting in their state in recent memory.
According to Texas Department of Public Safety regional director Freeman Martin, the gunman, 26-year old Devin Kelley arrived at a Valero gas station near the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Wilson County, at around 11:20 a.m. Sunday.
Martin said in a report that Kelley was dressed in black, wearing tactical gear and a ballistic vest, and crossed the street to the church, left his vehicle and started firing a Ruger AR assault-type rifle outside at the church, before entering and then resuming fire.
Among the victims included small children, with a pastor’s 14-year old daughter among the fatalities.
Kelley then left the church, but was met by residents with their own weapons, and after a brief chase, he was found dead in his vehicle after he reportedly lost control of it and crashed.
It is yet unclear to authorities if Kelley died as a result of gunfire exchanged between him and the pursuing locals, or if it was self-inflicted.
New information about the killer found that he served a year’s confinement after a 2012 court martial with the U.S. Air Force, where he was ultimately then discharged with bad conduct and a reduction in rank after he allegedly assaulted his spouse and their child.
This was revealed by Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.
Stefanek added that Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge in 2014.
He was responsible for moving passengers, cargo, and personal property in military transportation.
Investigators are also looking at social media posts Kelley may have made days before Sunday’s attack, including one where he appeared to flaunt a AR-15 style semi-automatic weapon.
The report added though that Kelley did not seem to be affiliated with any extremist group.
Despite strengthened calls for stricter gun laws since the Las Vegas shooting earlier last month, President Donald Trump in a statement said the current mass shooting case was more of a ‘mental health issue.’
“Mental health is your problem here. This was a very, based on preliminary reports, a very deranged individual, a lot of problems over a long period of time. We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries. But this isn’t a guns situation,” President Trump said during a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Trump added that it was a “little bit soon” to discuss gun control following the massacre, and alluded that the death toll could have been higher if not for another armed individual who fired at Kelley.
“Fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction otherwise … it would have been much worse,” the president said. “This is a mental health problem at the highest level.”