A tragic mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, left at least 26 dead and 20 wounded Sunday. The pastor's 14-year-old daughter and an 18-month-old baby were among those killed in the Texas church, police announced Monday. Many victims have not yet been publicly identified, as their relatives must be notified first.
The scene at the church was devastating. According to the authorities, the majority of people in the small building were wounded. Of those killed, 25 were found dead either inside or outside the church, and one person died later at a hospital. Several of those who were shot were children, including the 14-year-old and 18-month-old, as well as a 5-year-old. The younger children's names have not been released, and the 5-year-old remained in surgery Sunday night. One single family lost eight relatives spanning three generations, including a pregnant woman and three of her children.
"Now most of our church family is gone. Our building is probably beyond repair," Sherri Pomeroy, the pastor's wife who lost her 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, in the attack, told CNN. "As senseless as this tragedy was, our sweet Belle would not have been able to deal with losing so much family."
Pomeroy added about her daughter: "One thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement is the fact that Belle was surrounded by her church family that she loved fiercely, and vice versa."
A brother and sister revealed that both their parents were killed in the shooting. Bryan Holcombe had gone to the First Baptist Church on Sunday as a visiting pastor, and his wife, Karla, accompanied him. They both died in the attack. Scott, their 30-year-old son, told The New York Times that his pregnant sister-in-law, Crystal Holcombe, was also fatally shot.
"This is unimaginable," Scott told The Times. "My father was a good man, and he loved to preach. He had a good heart."
Sunday's attack was the deadliest mass shooting in modern Texas history and comes just a month after an attack in Las Vegas that became the nation's deadliest, leaving 58 dead and more than 500 injured.
Opening fire on a church inevitably drew comparisons to the 2015 shooting that killed nine at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. However, that attack was racially motivated, carried out by a white man on a predominantly Black congregation, while the suspected shooter in Texas (who was also white) attacked a predominantly white church.
Domestic violence appears to have been a factor in the shooting. "We know that he had made threatening texts, and we can’t go into detail into that domestic situation that is continuing to be vetted and thoroughly investigated," said Freeman Martin, a Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson, during a press conference Monday.
It's also known that the Texas suspect shouldn't have been able to legally buy a firearm, as he was dishonorably discharged from the Air Force after he was court-martialed for allegations that he assaulted his wife and child in 2012. CNN reports he bought a semi-automatic rifle in San Antonio, but didn't list his criminal record on the background check form. It's possible that went undetected because the Air Force failed to file his discharge records with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.