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Man kills 26 in armed attack on Texas church

Austin American-Statesman/AP

Law enforcement officials work at the scene of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday.

The Associated Press SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP) — A man dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault rifle opened fire inside a church in a small South Texas community on Sunday, killing 26 people and wounding about 20 others in what the governor called the deadliest mass shooting in the state’s history. The dead ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old.

Authorities didn’t identify the attacker during a news conference Sunday night, but two other officials — one a U.S. official and one in law enforcement — identified him as Devin Kelley. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation.

The U.S. official said Kelley lived in a San Antonio suburb and didn’t appear to be linked to organized terrorist groups. Investigators were looking at social media posts Kelley made in the days before Sunday’s attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon.

Kelley received a bad-conduct discharge from the Air Force for allegedly assaulting his spouse and child, and was sentenced to 12 months’ confinement after a 2012 court-martial. Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.

At the news conference, the attacker was described only as a white man in his 20s who was wearing black tactical gear and a ballistic vest when he pulled into a gas station across from the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, around 11:20 a.m.

The gunman crossed the street and started firing a Ruger AR rifle at the church, said Freeman Martin, a regional director of the Texas Department of Safety, then continued firing after entering the white wood-frame building, where an 11 a.m. service was scheduled.

Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr., whose territory includes Sutherland Springs, said there was likely “no way” for the church congregation to escape once the shooting started.

“You’ve got your pews on either side. He just walked down the center aisle, turned around and my understanding was shooting on his way back out,” said Tackitt, who said the shooter also carried a handgun but that he didn’t know if it was fired.

Tackitt described the scene inside the church as “terrible.”

“It’s unbelievable to see children, men and women, laying there. Defenseless people,” Tackitt said. “I guess it was seeing the children that were killed. It’s one thing to see an adult, but to see a 5-year-old ...”

As he left, the shooter was confronted by an armed resident who “grabbed his rifle and engaged that suspect,” Martin said. A short time later, the suspect was found dead in his vehicle at the county line.

Several weapons were found inside the vehicle and Martin said it was unclear if the attacker died of a self-inflicted wound or if he was shot by the resident who confronted him. He said investigators weren’t ready to discuss a possible motive. Martin said 23 of the dead were found in the church, two were found outside and one died after being taken to a hospital.Speech

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