SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas — A man dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault rifle opened fire inside a church in a small South Texas community on Sunday, killing 26 people and wounding at least 16 others in what the governor called the deadliest mass shooting in the state's history. The dead ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old.
Authorities didn't identify the attacker during a news conference Sunday night, but two other officials — one a U.S. official and one in law enforcement — identified him as Devin Kelley. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the investigation.
The U.S. official said Kelley lived in a San Antonio suburb and didn't appear to be linked to organized terrorist groups. Investigators were looking at social media posts Kelley made in the days before Sunday's attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon.
In a brief statement, the Pentagon confirmed he had served in the Air Force "at one point." Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said records show that Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge.
Stefanek said Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 on one count of assault on his spouse and another count of assault on their child and discharged two years later. He received a bad conduct discharge, 12 months' confinement and a reduction in rank.
At the news conference, the attacker was described only as a white man in his 20s who was wearing black tactical gear and a ballistic vest when he pulled into a gas station across from the First Baptist Church around 11:20 a.m.
The gunman crossed the street and started firing a Ruger AR rifle at the church, said Freeman Martin, a regional director of the Texas Department of Safety, then continued firing after entering the white wood-frame building, where an 11 a.m. service was scheduled. As he left, he was confronted by an armed resident who chased him. A short time later, the suspect was found dead in his vehicle at the county line, Martin said.
Several weapons were found inside the vehicle and Martin said it was unclear if the attacker died of a self-inflicted wound or if he was shot by the resident who confronted him. He said investigators weren't ready to discuss a possible motive for the attack.
He said 23 of the dead were found dead in the church, two were found outside and one died after being taken to a hospital.
Addressing the news conference, Gov. Greg Abbott called the attack the worst mass shooting in Texas history. "There are no words to describe the pure evil that we witnessed in Sutherland Springs today," Abbott said. "Our hearts are heavy at the anguish in this small town, but in time of tragedy, we see the very best of Texas. May God comfort those who've lost a loved one, and may God heal the hurt in our communities."
In Japan, President Donald Trump called the shooting "an act of evil," denounced the violence in "a place of sacred worship" and pledged the full support of the federal government. He said that in a time of grief "Americans will do what we do best: we pull together and join hands and lock arms and through the tears and sadness we stand strong."
Trump ordered that U.S. flags be flown at half-staff to honor those killed in the mass shooting at the Texas church.
Among those killed was the church pastor's 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle Pomeroy. Pastor Frank Pomeroy, and his wife, Sherri, were both out of town in two different states when the attack occurred, Sherri Pomeroy wrote in a text message to the AP.
"We lost our 14 year old daughter today and many friends," she wrote. "Neither of us has made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation. I am at the charlotte airport trying to get home as soon as i can."
Federal law enforcement swarmed the small rural community of a few hundred residents 30 miles southeast of San Antonio after the attack, including ATF investigators and members of the FBI's evidence collection team.
At least 16 wounded were taken to hospitals, hospital officials said, including eight taken by medical helicopter to the Brooke Army Medical Center. Another eight victims were taken to Connally Memorial Medical Center, located in Floresville about 10 miles from the church, including four who were later transferred to University Hospital in San Antonio for higher-level care, said spokeswoman Megan Posey.
Alena Berlanga, a Floresville resident who was monitoring the chaos on a police scanner and in Facebook community groups, said everyone knows everyone else in the sparsely populated county.
"This is horrific for our tiny little tight-knit town," Berlanga said. "Everybody's going to be affected and everybody knows someone who's affected."
Regina Rodriguez, who arrived at the church a couple of hours after the shooting, walked up to the police barricade and hugged a person she was with. She said her father, 51-year-old Richard Rodriguez, attends the church every Sunday, and she hadn't been able to reach him. She said she feared the worst.
Church member Nick Uhlig, 34, wasn't at Sunday's service, but he said his cousins were at the church and that his family was told at least one of them, a woman with three children and pregnant with another, was among the dead.
"We just gathered to bury their grandfather on Thursday," he said, shaking his head. "This is the only church here. We have Bible study, men's Bible study, vacation Bible school. Somebody went in and started shooting."
"We're shocked. Shocked and dismayed," said state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Laredo Democrat whose district includes Sutherland Springs, a rural community known for its peanut festival, which was held last month. "It's especially shocking when it's such a small, serene area. These rural areas, they are so beautiful and so loving."
The church has posted videos of its Sunday services on a YouTube channel, raising the possibility that the shooting was captured on video.
In a video of its Oct. 8 service, a congregant who spoke and read Scripture pointed to the Oct. 1 Las Vegas shooting a week earlier as evidence of the "wicked nature" of man. That shooting left 58 dead and more than 500 injured.
HUDSON FALLS — Principal Jim Bennefield knows the speakers at the school’s annual Wall of Distinction ceremony do not meet in advance to discuss their topics.
Still, after Sunday’s event, Bennefield noted a common thread through the six speakers.
“They all talked about community service and helping other people,” Bennefield said after the ceremony, which included the school’s National Honor Society students. “I think that was just a great message.”
Two of the best examples came from the Class of 1978 — Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy and South Glens Falls High School science teacher Judy Moffitt.
The two have been working closely together for the last four years in the Hometown vs. Heroin program, and are members of Friends of Recovery Warren & Washington, which focus on addiction and recovery issues.
“Judy was the one who got me going on this. She came into my office and laid it all out for me four years ago,” Murphy said. “She changed the way I approach drug issues and the way we as an office approach them.”
Moffitt’s son, Nick, who is in recovery, was there to see his mother honored by her old school.
“I was being a little outspoken, and Jeff recognized it,” said Moffitt, who attended Cornell University and is a master teacher. “He is very perceptive, and he knew this would do a lot.”
Paul Bromley, a 1974 graduate who worked at Finch Pruyn, owns a local sawmill and is very active on the Kingsbury Town Board, said he was “humbled” to be chosen as part of this year’s class.
“You look at the people they have honored and see you doctors and so many people who have made such a difference,” said Bromley, who spent much of the reception surrounded by grandchildren. “It really is humbling.”
Norma Scivetti Myers, who graduated in 1968, taught French and Spanish at the middle school and high school and started the French Honor Society.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said of the honor. “It’s kind of overwhelming.”
Dr. Melissa Durkee, who graduated in 1991, is the associate Chief of Pharmacy for Clinical Services for Veterans Administration Health Care, was another of the inductees.
The other induction was posthumous. Janet Van Deusen Merrill, Class of 1984, was killed in a car accident in North Carolina in 2004. She was an athletic trainer at Duke Sports Medicine.
Merrill had signed up to be an organ donor, and after the accident, six North Carolina residents received organs from her.
She was represented Sunday by her sister, Sheila.
The Wall of Distinction program dates back to 2003. and the event coincides with the induction of the members of the Sandy Hill chapter of the National Honor Society.
QUEENSBURY — Some SUNY Adirondack campus officers could be carrying guns during the spring semester as the school implements a Board of Trustees vote to arm the officers.
Officials will spend the remainder of this year drawing up rules for the purchase, training and use of Tasers and handguns by campus officers. Officers will be equipped with Tasers in the spring, and some will have new Glock 19 handguns as well.
“We do not have anyone trained in the Tasers, and everyone will be going through the 47-hour training for the guns,” said Anthony Palangi, the school’s director of facilities, who noted many of the campus officers are retired police who have past training and experience.
Firearm training consists of seven hours of use-of-force training and 40 hours of weapon familiarity training.
The school has nine peace officers in total, consisting of full-time and nine-month officers. There are six on-call officers as well. Three of them are new and will receive full peace officer training this summer.
Palangi said the officers will be trained on and receive the Tasers first. They will also begin wearing body cameras. The 9mm pistols will go into use as the officers get trained.
“We will bring them on board as they are trained, and we expect to have full implementation by September,” Palangi said.
School President Kristine Duffy indicated she did not think arming officers would change the tone of the campus.
“I would expect the atmosphere of the college to remain the same with no significant impact on the daily functions of the college as a center of learning,” she wrote in an email.
Palangi said the officers are always working on their relationships with students, and said that will not change.
He also made it clear arming the officers was not a response to outside incidents.
“The officers need the tools to do their job. We have a good group of individuals here,” Palangi said. “This will make us better prepared to respond, but hopefully we never have to.”
Duffy said previously the cost of equipping the officers with Tasers and handguns would be about $59,000 for the initial setup and $21,000 on an annual basis. The proposal specifically called for Tasers rather than stun guns. Tasers use a wire, allowing officers to utilize them from a distance. Most stun guns require direct contact with the suspect. Until 2004, the campus used private security guards, then hired one campus public safety officer. In 2013, the campus replaced all security guard with public safety officers. The public safety office was designated as an official law enforcement agency at that time. The officers have one SUV and a utility vehicle.
TOKYO — President Donald Trump opened his second day in Japan today by pushing for stronger, more equitable economic ties between the allies, yet his message in Asia threatened to be overshadowed by a tragic shooting back home.
Trump today called the Texas church shooting that claimed at least 26 lives “an act of evil.”
He then shifted to his message to a group of American and Japanese business leaders: the United States was open for business, but he wanted to reshape the nations’ trade relationship.
“For the last many decades, Japan has been winning” the trade relationship, Trump said. “The U.S. has suffered massive trade deficits with Japan for many years.”
He rebuked the current relationship, saying the trade deals were “not fair and not open.” Trump downplayed the potentially contentious nature of the negotiations, though the Japanese government has not shown much appetite for striking a new bilateral trade agreement. Tokyo had pushed to preserve the Trans- Pacific Partnership, which Trump has abandoned.
“We will have more trade than anybody ever thought under TPP. That I can tell you,” Trump said. He said the multinational agreement was not the right deal for the United States and that while “probably some of you in this room disagree ... ultimately I’ll be proven to be right.”
The president seemed at ease in front of his CEO peers, calling out some by name, teasing that the first lady had to sell her Boeing stock once he took office and calling for Japanese automakers to make more of their cars in America, though major companies like Toyota and Nissan already build many vehicles in the United States. He promised that profits would soon rise on both sides of the Pacific once new agreements were struck.
“We’ll have to negotiate that out and it’ll be a very friendly negotiation,” Trump said, suggesting it would be done “quickly” and “easily.”
Trump and his wife, Melania, then paid a formal state call on Japan’s Emperor Akihito and his wife, Empress Michiko, at the Imperial Palace, which is set amid manicured pines and deciduous trees bursting with color in a park oasis at the heart of the bustling city.
The president nodded at the emperor and shook hands as he arrived. The Trumps were then ushered into a receiving room where they spoke to the imperial family with help from translators. Reporters were unable to hear the conversation.
Later today, Trump will highlight the specter of North Korea and try to put a human face on its menace, hearing from anguished families of Japanese citizens snatched by Pyongyang’s agents. The White House hopes the meeting will elevate these heart-wrenching tales of loss to the international stage to help pressure North Korea to end its provocative behavior toward American allies in the region.
North Korea has acknowledged apprehending 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s, but claims they all died or have been released. But in Japan, where grieving relatives of the abducted have become a symbol of heartbreak on the scale of American POW families, the government insists nearly 50 people were taken — and believes some may be alive.
Trump has delivered harsh denunciations of the renegade North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, belittling him as “Little Rocket Man” and threatening to rain “fire and fury” on his country if the belligerence continues. But Trump also has begun highlighting the plight of ordinary North Koreans.
“I think they’re great people. They’re industrious. They’re warm, much warmer than the world really knows or understands,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One while flying to Japan on Sunday. “And I hope it all works out for everybody.”
North Korea is the critical issue looming over Trump’s 12-day, five-country trip that will include direct talks with Trump’s Chinese and Russian counterparts.
In Washington, a new analysis emerged from the Pentagon saying that a ground invasion of North Korea is the only way to locate and destroy, with complete certainty, all components of Kim’s nuclear weapons program.
“It is the most bleak assessment,” said U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Two members of the U.S. Congress had asked the Pentagon about casualty assessments in a possible conflict with North Korea. A rear admiral on the Joint Staff responded on behalf of the Defense Department, and said the amount of casualties would differ depending on the advance warning and the ability of U.S. and South Korea forces to counter North Korean attacks.
Abe welcomed Trump on Sunday with an effusive display of friendship that now gives way to high-stakes diplomacy. The leaders, who have struck up an unlikely but easy rapport, played nine holes at the Kasumigaseki Country Club and, giving Trump a taste of home, ate hamburgers made with American beef.
While there is worry in the region about Trump’s unpredictable response to the threat posed by Kim, Trump made clear he did not intend to tone down his bellicose rhetoric even while in an Asian capital within reach of North Korea’s missiles.
“There’s been 25 years of total weakness, so we are taking a very much different approach,” he said aboard Air Force One.