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Authorities Are Still On The Scene Of Sunday's Mass Shooting In Texas


Let's return to the scene of that mass shooting on Sunday. It took place at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a quiet community not that far from San Antonio. A gunman killed 26 people and injured 20 others. Investigators have released new details on how the suspect prepared for this massacre and also how he died. NPR's Russell Lewis joins us from Stockdale, which is a few miles from Sutherland Springs. Hi, Russell.

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: Hey, good morning.

GREENE: So what are we learning now?

LEWIS: Well, the suspect, in this case, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, he was shot three times. Authorities say an armed civilian engaged him after he exited the church. The civilian shot the suspect twice, once in the leg, once in the torso. And that's when the suspect hopped in his SUV and he fled, being chased by that civilian and a second man. Kelley crashed his SUV and then investigators say apparently, he fatally shot himself.

GREENE: OK. And all that, of course, after just the carnage that he left in and around that church. Do we know - or what do we know, at this point, about why he did this?

LEWIS: Well, they believe that the shooting was the result of what they're calling a domestic issue. They say that the suspect was targeting his mother-in-law, who was a member of the church. But she wasn't there on Sunday. Police say that he came with two handguns and an AR assault-style rifle. And what we learned late yesterday is just the, you know, the sheer amount of ammunition that he was carrying. They say that he entered First Baptist with 15 fully-loaded magazines that held 30 rounds each.

And by the time that the shooting was done, those were empty. And that's a potential of 450 rounds fired. And here's what Freeman Martin of the Texas Department of Public Safety told reporters.


FREEMAN MARTIN: There are many ways that he could have taken care of the mother-in-law without coming with 15 loaded magazines and an assault rifle to a church. I think he came here with a purpose and a mission.

GREENE: And Russell, one of the big questions is how he was able to purchase these guns, right? And this is sort of a disturbing story we're following this morning.

LEWIS: Yeah, you know, as we've been reporting elsewhere on the program, you know, the gunman was court martialed. And he received a bad-conduct discharge from the Air Force. He had assaulted his wife at the time and according to the military, he had also fractured his stepson's skull. He was sentenced to 12 months confinement. The Air Force says now that it didn't properly report that, and it didn't end up in the national crime database. And because of that, he was allowed to purchase these weapons when he shouldn't have.

And now the Air Force has promised a complete review.

GREENE: And Russell, what does that community feel like right now?

LEWIS: You know, David, it's a place that's really still in shock. I mean, fewer than 400 people live here and 46 people were shot. You know, that's 10 percent of the people who live here. You know, everyone seems to know everyone. So the first responders who showed up at the church knew some of the victims. And, you know, the youngest victim was 18 months old, the oldest was in his late '70s. One family lost three generations - eight people from the same family killed.

There was another candlelight vigil last night. There's one planned for tomorrow. The emotions are raw, and it's just so hard for people to cope and try to understand what happened.

GREENE: NPR's Russell Lewis speaking to us from near Sutherland Springs, Texas. Thanks, Russell.

LEWIS: Yes. 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.