Tragedy in Texas


Nick Wagner

The First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas in the aftermath of the shooting on November 5 that killed 26 people and injured at least 20. Photo via CNN.

Lizzie Quinlivan, Contributing Writer

On November 5, 2017, just a month after the shooting in Las Vegas, a gunman opened fire at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The shooter was identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley. 26 people were killed, and about 20 more were injured.

Sutherland Springs is a suburb of San Antonio. It is a small town with a population of around 400. With such a small population, the First Baptist Church had only two rows of pews, both of which were nearly filled by worshippers on November 5.

At around 11:40 A.M. on November 5, Kelley entered the church and opened fire. Due to the small size of the church, nearly everyone that was present was killed. The ages of the victims range from 18 months to 77 years old. In fact, the people who were killed and injured accounted for 4% of the population of Sutherland Springs. Almost every citizen of the town knew at least one person who was killed.

Stephen Willeford, a neighbor of the church, heard the gunshots from his home and brought a gun with him to see what happened. By the time he arrived, Kelley was exiting the church. Willeford shot Kelley, wounding him in his leg. The gunman then proceeded to his car, and attempted to flee the scene, while Willeford continued to chase him.

Willeford then joined another Sutherland Springs resident named Johnnie Langendorff in a car and together they pursued the gunman in a 95mph speed chase. Eventually, Kelley lost control of his vehicle, ran off the road, and shot himself in the head.

Once police arrived at the scene, 23 people were pronounced dead in the church, 2 people were shot and killed when the gunman tried to flee outside of the church, and 1 person was taken to a hospital and died there.

Among the dead was Pastor Frank Pomeroy’s daughter, 14-year-old Annabelle Pomeroy. The pastor was not at the church at the time of the shooting as he was out of town with his wife. Many other children were also in attendance when the gunman opened fire. At least 13 children were shot and killed, most of whom were under the age of 10.

The shooting was declared the fourth largest mass shooting in American history, falling behind the shootings in Las Vegas, Orlando, and Virginia Tech. Upon learning of the shooting in Texas, Hingham High sophomore Riley Potter expressed that she was “horrified by the fact that two of these mass shootings happened just a month apart.” This tragedy was also deemed the largest church shooting in American history.

This shooting brings up questions on gun control and background checks. In 2009, Kelley, the shooter, enlisted in the Air Force after his graduation from New Braunfels High School in New Braunfels, Texas. His records show that he was disrespectful to his superiors, and even threatened some.

In 2011, at the age of 20, he married 18-year-old Tessa Loge, and reports show that he physically abused her. A year later, he allegedly hit his son in the head with such a force that it was surprising that the son even survived. After being put into a behavioral center in New Mexico in 2012, Kelley escaped and took a bus back to Texas. He remained in Texas until he shooting. During this time, he was charged with multiple sexual assault allegations.

Sophomore Sophia Oomen-Lochtifeld stated that she believes “there should be more background checks done on people who purchase guns. Obviously, the shooter had a long history of mental health problems, and should not have been able to purchase the gun that he used in the shooting.”

Hopefully, if more background checks are instated, mass shootings will be prevented in the future. No town should have to experience the tragedy that the small town of Sutherland Springs did.