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Survivors recount horror of church attack

Stuffed animals sit at the base of a cross at a makeshift memorial for victims of Sunday’s shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. Associated Press/Photo by Eric Gay

Survivors recount horror of church attack

Witnesses say the gunman who killed 26 people Sunday at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, shot babies at point-blank range and targeted anyone who cried out during his rampage. Rosanne Solis, who suffered a gunshot wound to the arm, and Joaquin Ramirez survived the attack by lying on the floor and playing dead. They told a San Antonio television station that the gunman first sprayed bullets over the congregation then walked up the aisle and checked each pew for anyone left alive. At one point, he yelled, “Everbody die!” Twenty people survived the attack, and at least five remain hospitalized. Investigators collected at least 15 empty magazines in and around the church, suggesting 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley fired at least 450 rounds. On Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Pentagon officials would figure out why the Air Force failed to report Kelley’s criminal background to the FBI, information that would have prevented him from buying the weapons he used in the attack. In 2014, Kelley was kicked out of the Air Force and convicted of domestic violence for a 2012 assault in which he choked his ex-wife and fractured the skull of her son. Academy Sports & Outdoors, where Kelley bought two guns in the past two years, confirmed Monday its employees ran his name through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Also on Monday, law enforcement officials confirmed Kelley suffered three gunshot wounds, two from shots fired by Stephen Willeford, a former NRA instructor who lived next to the church, and one self-inflicted wound to the head. Willeford exchanged gunfire with Kelley as he left the church, causing him to drop his rifle and flee in his SUV. Officials say without Willeford’s intervention, Kelley might have continued his killing spree.

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to reflect the correct number of deaths in Sunday’s shooting. On Tuesday, Nov. 7, officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety said their count of 26 deaths included the unborn child of Crystal Holcombe, who was pregnant when she and three of her other children were killed.

Leigh Jones

Leigh is features editor for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate who spent six years as a newspaper reporter in Texas before joining WORLD News Group. Leigh also co-wrote Infinite Monster: Courage, Hope, and Resurrection in the Face of One of America's Largest Hurricanes. She resides with her husband and daughter in Houston, Texas.


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