SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas - Authorities said just before the shooting, Kelley sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law. He reportedly showed a pattern of violence leading up to the attack.
"Heart-wrenching. You always hear about it but you never think it would hit this close to home. When it does, its unimaginable," said Jennifer Fleming, Floresville resident.
Tragedy didn’t just strike the small town of Sutherland Springs, it affected far more. Neighboring communities are all intertwined, those from the area calling it a close-knit community.
"I knew Mr. Holcombe. He had an upholstery business downtown in Floresville. He upholstered my very first car on the inside. Very caring and loving family...everyone was,” said Fleming.
On Sunday morning authorities said 26-year-old Devin Kelley opened fire inside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.The Wilson County Sheriff said he walked down the center aisle firing shots during worship services, before turning around and continuing the terror. Kelley had family who attended the church including his spouse. Officials said he sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law before the attack.
"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,” said Freeman Martin, regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Twenty-six people were killed, their ages ranging from 18 months old to 77 years. At least 14 others were injured. Autopsy results of the gunman show he sustained three gunshot wounds before dying. Two gunshot wounds were from armed citizens who chased him down and one self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Authorities said it’s a difficult job.
“I can tell you that the scene in there...horrific is not even a word to describe. I surely want to commend the first responders who went in there - from fire, EMS and the police department, the FBI and DPS ranger evidence teams that are in there now taking care of this,” said Special Agent Christopher Combs, FBI ‘s San Antonio division.
The gunman is from New Braunfels. An Air Force spokesman said Kelley served from 2010 until 2014 when he was discharged for allegedly assaulting his wife and child. After a 2012 court martial, he was sentenced to 12 months of confinement. But, the Air Force failed to report that to the FBI as required by Pentagon rules.
"There was no prohibitive information in the systems that we check that say that he could not have purchased that firearm,” said Combs.
Three local school districts, La Vernia, Stockdale and Floresville, are now working as one to support their communities as they grieve. At least two students were killed and six injured.
"It's devastating. It's very difficult for the families. Our staff members are just so upset. These children are their children. It's been hard but the public school community comes together and supports each other,” said Superintendent Dr. Sherri Bays, Floresville ISD.
Authorities plan to finish the evidence collection process Monday night. On Tuesday they will begin forensic mapping and trajectory analysis. They hope to release the names of the victims as soon as possible.