Sutherland Springs: Men chased Texas church shooting suspect
Two men are being hailed as heroes for pursuing the gunman suspected of killing at least 26 people at a Texas church.
Johnnie Langendorff told local media he had chased the gunman after seeing “two men exchanging gunfire”.
“The shooter… fled in his vehicle, the other gentleman came and said we need to pursue him,” he said.
The attack happened at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a small town in Wilson County.
At least 26 people, aged from five to 72, were killed and 20 others were wounded when the gunman opened fire during Sunday service.
Speaking to local TV station Ksat.com, Mr Langendorff said: “I pulled up to the intersection where the shooting happened. I saw two men exchanging gunfire, the other being [a] citizen of the community.
“He came to my vehicle in distress with his weapon. He explained very quickly what happened. He got into the truck and I knew that it was time to go.”
He said the pair had driven at speeds of up to 95mph (153km/h) until the gunman lost control of his car and crashed. “We led police to him,” he said. “Everybody else was headed to the church.”
The suspected gunman was later found dead in his vehicle but it is unclear if he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound or from injuries received when fired on. The car contained several weapons.
No details have emerged about the man who pursued the gunman along with Mr Langendorff.
Mr Langendorff’s Facebook page has been inundated with messages of support since the shooting. One says: “God bless you, Johnnie. You are a true American hero”.
Police identified the gunman only as a “young, white male” but US media named him as Devin Patrick Kelley, 26.
Kelley is reported to have been discharged from the US air force in 2014 following a court martial for assaulting his wife and child.
The motive for the killings is not yet clear.
Owen Amos, BBC News, Sutherland Springs, Texas
At 1.30, Chris Speer was still sitting on his porch in Sutherland Springs, sucking his cigarette in the dark. Fourteen hours earlier he was in the same place, with his 11-month-old son, when he heard “close to 30 shots”.
“Your first instinct, you’re out in the country, you think someone is shooting, practising,” he says. “But it was too close. I knew something wasn’t right.”
He took his son inside. “If I could have got my gun, I would have,” he says. “But when you’ve got a kid in your hands, I’m not risking it. He wouldn’t let go.”
Chris didn’t know the attacker but he knew “a lot” of the victims. “We’re a small community. We band together. But what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”
AFP – A candlelit vigil was held for victims of the shooting in Sutherland Springs
Texas Department of Public Safety regional director Freeman Martin said the attacker, dressed all in black and wearing a bulletproof vest, opened fire with a Ruger assault rifle outside the church at around 11:30 local time (17:30 GMT) and then went inside.
Mr Martin added: “We have multiple crime scenes. We have the church, outside the church. We have where the suspect’s vehicle was located.”
Governor Greg Abbott, confirming the death toll, said it was the worst mass shooting in the history of Texas.
“This will be a long, suffering mourning for those in pain,” he said at a news conference on Sunday.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, on a tour of Asia, said guns were not to blame for the shooting.
“We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, but this isn’t a guns situation,” he said.
The First Baptist Church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy, told ABC News that his 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was among those killed.
Mr Pomeroy, who was in Oklahoma at the time of the attack, described her as “one very beautiful, special child” in a phone call to the television outlet.
At least 10 victims, including four children, were being treated at the University Health System in nearby San Antonio, the hospital said in a tweet.
Sheriff Joe Tackitt said authorities could not confirm the names of any victims yet as they continued to work through the crime scene.
Officials said 23 people were found dead inside the church while two people were fatally shot outside. Another died in hospital, authorities said.
Sutherland Springs, which has a population of about 400, lies about 30 miles (50km) south-east of the city of San Antonio.