A gunman opened fire at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, during its morning services on Sunday, Nov. 5, killing 26 people and wounding at least 20 more.
The attack was stopped by a nearby resident who ran out of his house barefoot with a rifle and shot the gunman twice outside the church, causing him to drop his weapon and flee the scene in his vehicle. The resident continued to shoot at him before pursuing him with another resident who happened to be driving nearby. The gunman eventually crashed and was found dead by police of a final, self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Sutherland Springs is located 20 miles southeast of San Antonio and has a population of 600. Residents told local reporters that about 50 people typically attend services at First Baptist. Those killed in the shooting ranged in age from five to 72, according to officials.
The shooter was identified as 26-year-old Devin Kelley of New Braunfels, Texas—a suburb of San Antonio.
In a press conference the day after the shooting, Freeman Martin, a regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said that Kelley was motivated by a “domestic situation” and had recently sent threatening texts to his mother-in-law. Martin said Kelley’s wife’s family regularly attends First Baptist, but was not there on the day of the attack.
A former logistics professional in the U.S. Air Force, Kelley was court-martialed and sentenced to a year in confinement in 2012 for assaulting his previous wife and stepson. He was dishonorably discharged in 2014. Kelley most recently worked as a security guard at an RV park in New Braunfels.
Despite being prohibited by law from owning or purchasing firearms due to his domestic violence court-martial conviction, Kelley was able to purchase four guns from stores in Colorado and Texas from 2014 to 2017 because the Air Force failed to record his conviction in the FBI’s national crime database. Among these was Kelley’s Ruger AR-556 rifle that he used in the attack.
Former New Braunfels High School classmates of Kelley’s told DailyMail.com that the shooter was “creepy” and an “outcast” who constantly preached his atheism on Facebook.
A former Clovis resident who lives in New Braunfels posted on Facebook after the shooting, “Devin Kelley was always a piece of s*** and f*** all you that were friends with that murdering a****** who couldn’t see he was a dark person.”
The Sutherland Springs resident who stopped the attack, plumber and former NRA instructor Stephen Willeford, described his thoughts during his rush to load his AR-15 and get to the church in an interview with Arkansas news station KHBS.
“Every time I heard a shot I knew that probably represented a life,” Willeford said. “I was scared to death.”
Despite likely saving a number of lives, Willeford said he is “no hero.”
“I think my God, my Lord protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done. And I just wish I could have gotten there faster.”