A gunman opened fire on the congregation attending the Sunday service at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, TX on Nov. 5, 2017. Police say the suspect first fired at the church from the outside, before walking inside the church and continuing to fire. There were 23 people found dead inside the church, two were found dead outside, and one died on the way to the hospital. Local police have not yet officially released the suspect’s name, but several media outlets have reported Devin Patrick Kelley as the suspect based on briefings from unnamed law enforcement officers. After leaving the church, the suspect went on a 95 mph high-speed chase against an armed local civilian and later the police. The driver chasing him claims Kelley lost control of the vehicle and hit a hay barrel in nearby Guadalupe County. He was found with two gunshot wounds from the civilian and another to the head, which the medical examiner describes as consistent with being self-inflicted.
Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said there was no way for parishioners to escape with the shooter blocking the door and “pews on either side” limiting their mobility. As the FBI and other law enforcement agencies continue to investigate what happened, it is likely that the church’s service recordings will prove invaluable. Other residents noted the difficulty of exiting with the church’s layout. The 26 dead in the shooting represent about 4.5% of Sutherland Springs’s population, a small, close-knit community of about 600 people, roughly 40 minutes away from San Antonio.
Kelley was discharged from the Air Force on bad conduct for domestic violence, although this court-martial was not reported to the National Instant Background Check System. Kelley also attempted to escape a mental hospital in Santa Teresa, NM at the time of the court-martial, after El Paso Police detained him for being “a danger to himself and others.” Kelley also violated Air Force regulations by sneaking firearms onto Holloman Air Force Base. This failure of the background check system is likely why he was able to buy his guns, including the handgun and Ruger Armalite-pattern rifle found in his car. The First Baptist Church seems to have been specifically targeted, as Kelley sent threats to the congregation days ahead of time before driving nearly an hour from New Braunfels to shoot them.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Google and YouTube algorithms promoted several spurious social media posts from Kelley indicating that he was aligned with infamous groups, including Antifa or ISIS. No investigations show links between Kelley and outside organizations so far.