Texas’ worst mass shooting in history took at least 27 lives Sunday morning in a small town just two hours away from UT.
The shooting, at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, also injured at least 20 more church-goers. The fallen ranged in age from five to over 70 years old and included children, a pregnant woman and the church pastor’s 14-year-old daughter, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
Law enforcement identified the shooter as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley. The Express-News reported the shooting began outside the church and Kelley then moved into the worship hall.
“It’s something we all say does not happen in small communities, although we found out today it does,” Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said in a press conference.
Kelley later died while attempting to escape after crashing his car in nearby Guadalupe County, according to the Express-News.
This was the largest mass shooting in Texas in almost 30 years since 23 were killed in a Luby’s in the town of Killeen. The death toll also exceeded that of the infamous UT Tower shooting in 1966 when Charles Whitman killed 16 with a long-range rifle from the top of the clocktower.
According to The New York Times, Kelley received a dishonorable discharge from the Air Force several years ago for assaulting his wife and child.
Gov. Greg Abbott called the morning’s attack “horrific;” Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a press release that his office has already mobilized to help local law enforcement.
“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," Abbott said in a press release.
Abbott ordered flags to be lowered to half-mast until Thursday evening in honor of the fallen.
"There are no words to describe the pure evil that we witnessed in Sutherland Springs today," Abbott said. "Our hearts are heavy at the anguish in this small town, but in time of tragedy, we see the very best of Texas. May God comfort those who've lost a loved one, and may God heal the hurt in our communities."
President Donald Trump, who is currently on a trip to Asia, called the attack “evil” and said in a press conference his administration would provide full support to Texas in the aftermath. The Federal Bureau of Investigations is already helping with the shooting investigation, according to The New York Times.
“Our hearts are broken, but in dark times — and these are dark times — such as these, Americans do what they do best,” Trump said. “We pull together, we join hands, we lock arms and through the tears and through the sadness we stand strong.