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Texas Community Is The Latest To Suffer A Shooting Attack


The First Baptist Church in Sutherlands Springs, Texas, is a crime scene this morning. A lone gunman opened fire there yesterday during Sunday services. Twenty-six people are confirmed dead, many are wounded. The gunman was later found dead himself. NPR's Russell Lewis joins me now from just outside Sutherland Springs. Hi, Russell.


KELLY: I gather police have just finished a press conference. Can you share what the latest details are?

LEWIS: Right. So we've learned new details. Police say that this apparently was a domestic situation, that the shooter, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, that his mother-in-law attended this church. Apparently, he sent a threatening text message to her at some point. What is unclear at the moment is, you know, were the in-laws inside the church at the time? But they're saying that it is a domestic situation. At least it's sort of giving a clearer idea as to what happened but really not the deep-down why at the moment.

KELLY: Right because until this latest press conference what we had known about him was that he lived nearby but in a suburb of San Antonio but not in this town. Tell us a little bit more about his history, military service for example.

LEWIS: Yeah. So he lived about 45 minutes away from here, but his military history is that he was in the Air Force from 2010 to 2014, apparently had some trouble when he was in the Air Force. He was court-martialed there because of domestic abuse, abusing his wife and his child. And then he also received a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force for that as well. One of the little tidbit that we learned is that he, during this shooting spree 24 hours ago here, he had three guns on him. He had an AR military-style rifle. Authorities said that they also found a 9 millimeter Glock handgun and a 22 millimeter Ruger pistol.

Apparently, according to the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, all of these guns were purchased by him. It is unclear if he was allowed to do that given that court-martial and bad conduct discharge from the Air Force. The ATF official who spoke at this news conference says that they're going through paperwork trying to understand how it was that he was able to buy it and whether or not he was permitted to buy it.

KELLY: Did the authorities share any more information about the victims, about the people who were inside this church?

LEWIS: No, not really. They said that 23 people died inside the church. Two people were killed outside the church, and then one person died in the hospital. There was praise for two Samaritans who engaged with the suspect after he exited the First Baptist Church here in Sutherland Springs. One of them lived across the street. And when hearing the commotion, got his own rifle, came outside and engaged with the suspect. Another man got in with this man and pursued him at a high-speed chase for many miles. And that is when the accident happened. And officials said at this point that they believe that the suspect died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but they can't say that definitively yet.

KELLY: All right. That's NPR's Russell Lewis updating us on the latest from this shooting in the last 24 hours in Sutherlands Springs, Texas. Officials have confirmed that 26 people died. The victims ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years old. Russell, thanks very much.

LEWIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.