Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

US in Mourning after Mass Shooting at Texas Church

US in Mourning after Mass Shooting at Texas Church

Monday, 6 November, 2017 - 06:00
Law enforcement officers gather in front of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs after the fatal shooting. Darren Abate/AP Photo

The United States was in mourning Monday after a gunman opened fire with an assault rifle on the congregation of a smalltown church in southeast Texas , killing 26 people and wounding 20 more in the latest shooting massacre that has plagued the nation.

Five weeks after the worst shooting in modern US history President Donald Trump ordered flags be flown half-staff at the White House and federal buildings in the aftermath of the most recent tragedy.

Trump, in Japan as part of his nearly two-week long Asia tour, called the "horrific shooting" an "act of evil."

"Our hearts are broken but in dark times -- and these are dark times -- such as these, Americans do what they do best: we pull together."

The victims, who ranged in age from five to 72, were gunned down at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a rural community of some 400 people located 30 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio.

The gunman, widely identified as Devin Kelley, 26, was described by authorities as a "young white male" who was found dead in his vehicle after being confronted by a local resident.

The Air Force said Kelley served at a base in New Mexico starting in 2010 before being court-martialed in 2012 for allegedly assaulting his wife and child.

He was sentenced to 12 months in confinement and received a "bad conduct" discharge, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told AFP. He was discharged in 2014.

Wearing all black and a bulletproof vest, he fired outside the church before entering the building and continuing to spray bullets, said Freeman Martin, regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

"As he exited the church, a local resident grabbed his rifle and engaged that suspect. The suspect dropped his rifle, which was a Ruger AR assault-type rifle, and fled from the church. Our local citizen pursued the suspect at that time," Martin said.

Law enforcement later found Kelley dead in his car, which had crashed on the Wilson-Guadalupe county line. It was not clear if he had killed himself or was shot by the resident who had confronted him.

As with many other shootings before this one, Democrats pounced on the occasion to renew calls for gun control, a hot-button issue in a country that holds the right to bear arms as almost sacred.

In denouncing the "act of hatred," Trump's predecessor Barack Obama said: "May God also grant all of us the wisdom to ask what concrete steps we can take to reduce the violence and weaponry in our midst."

The shooting comes just over a month after a gunman in Las Vegas fired down from a hotel room on to an outdoor concert, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

Asked what policies he might support in response to the shooting at a press conference in Tokyo, Trump said that based on preliminary reports, the gunman was "a very deranged individual, a lot of problems."

"We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries. But this isn’t a guns situation," he said. "Fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction."

Editor Picks