Texas Officials Say Domestic Situation With Gunman's Family Could Be Link To Church

Nov 6, 2017
Originally published on November 7, 2017 11:38 am
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Law enforcement officers are beginning to explain what might have motivated the mass shooting during a church service yesterday morning in Texas. The massacre in Sutherland Springs, a rural town about 35 miles east of San Antonio, left 26 people dead and another 20 people wounded. We're also learning more about how good Samaritans might have saved lives by returning fire and then following the shooter on a high-speed chase.

NPR's John Burnett has been reporting from Sutherland Springs, and he's with us now. Hi, John.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Hi, Kelly.

MCEVERS: So what do we know that's new?

BURNETT: Well, there was a press conference this evening out in Sutherland Springs really only, like, a block away from the Baptist church. And what we know that's new is that the shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, the 26-year-old airman who got a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force, had three gunshot wounds - one to the leg, one to the torso - both of those from the citizen who confronted him outside the church and got into a gunfight with him - and a third gunshot wound to the head. The medical examiner believes that was self-inflicted.

We also learned the fearsome amount of ammunition that was used in this shooting rampage - 15 magazines. That holds - each magazine holds 30 bullets each. All the mags were empty. So that's a potential of 450 rounds if Kelley fired all of them. We have a cut of tape here from Freeman Martin with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

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FREEMAN MARTIN: 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.

MCEVERS: And he mentioned the mother-in-law there. Do we know about why this shooting rampage happened?

BURNETT: Right. And so as we heard from the state police investigator, there was apparently an issue between Kelley and his mother-in-law. Earlier today, he called it a domestic situation. Kelley's mother-in-law, who was not identified, attended this church, First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. But she was reportedly not there when he started blasting through the walls on Sunday morning. The investigator also said this is - this mass murder does not appear to be racially motivated, not motivated by religious beliefs.

MCEVERS: Did we learn anything more about how the shooting played out?

BURNETT: Yeah. We learned how the shooting came to an end. Investigators described two local men as good Samaritans. One of them grabbed his own AR-15 assault rifle and started shooting at Kelley when he saw him attacking the church. At that point, Kelley apparently stopped shooting, jumped in his Ford Expedition and raced out of town. This civilian with the gun flagged down another guy, Johnnie Langendorff, who happened to be driving by in his truck. Langendorff spoke to reporters in Sutherland Springs this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHNNIE LANGENDORFF: He opened my door and proceeded to get in and said, that man - that guy just shot up the church. We got to go follow him. Follow him. And I said, OK.

BURNETT: Langendorff said he and the other citizen with the rifle chased Kelley down the highway at speeds over 90 miles an hour. Kelley missed a turn and rolled his SUV into a ditch. Minutes later, the cops arrived and discovered that Kelley was dead inside of his vehicle.

MCEVERS: Did you hear from anyone with the First Baptist Church where this happened?

BURNETT: At the end of this morning's press conference, the pastor and his wife, Frank and Sherri Pomeroy, came forward. Now, they weren't in the church at the time of the shooting. They were out of town. But their 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was at the service, and she was killed.

MCEVERS: NPR's John Burnett in Texas, thank you so much.

BURNETT: Sure, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.