Gunman kills 26 and injures additional 20 inside a small Baptist church
Last Sunday in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a gunman shot and killed at least 26 people and wounded close to 20 more during a morning service of a small community church.
The alleged gunman has been identified as Devin Kelley, a 26-year-old from New Braunfels, Texas, a small suburb of San Antonio, about 37 miles from the place of the attack.
Kelley charged into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs with an assault rifle and multiple magazines worth of ammunition and began firing.
Stephen Willeford, a citizen who was nearby the church, heard the gunshots and quickly grabbed and loaded his own personal gun and began to shoot at Kelley as he left the church. Kelley, after being shot once by Willeford, fled in his car. Willeford then called over fellow citizen, Johnnie Langendorff and the two chased Kelley in Langendorff’s truck.
The chase ended when Kelley veered off the side of the road and crashed into a stop sign. The two stayed back with their guns trained on Kelley’s vehicle until police arrived to find Kelley dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
When asked recently in an interview with CNN about what was going on in his head during the time Langendorff replied, “Nothing, get him. Because that’s what you do, you chase a bad guy.”
This isn’t the first time Kelley has been involved with the law. In 2010, Kelley began his service at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. In 2012, he was reported because he had made several death threats against superior officers and tried to smuggle weapons on to the base.
Because of those actions, Kelley was admitted into Peak Behavioral Health Services, a mental hospital in New Mexico that specializes in treating military personnel. In June 2012, he escaped the hospital and was later found and taken into custody at a bus station a few miles from the hospital.
Months after his escape, Kelley pleaded guilty in military court to multiple counts of assault on his wife and his young stepson, including one account that left the boy with a fractured skull. Kelley was sentenced to one year of confinement.
Joshua King, Ph.D., an Azusa Pacific political science professor, believes that a better application of certain laws could of helped prevent this tragedy.
“The problem may not be an absence of regulation. The problem may be that law enforcement and reporting institutions fail to apply existing regulations. The Federal Government failed to record Devin Kelley’s domestic violence convictions,” King said. “I suspect that Kelly would continue to hurt people even without a gun. If the Federal Government had made accurate reports, perhaps Texas would have been able to apply the state laws that forbid Kelley from owning a firearm.”
The Air Force failed to record this conviction and admitted to failing to report Kelley’s case to the federal databases, which are used in background checks. These convictions of domestic assault should have stopped him from buying the four guns he owned. Yet each time he bought one, he passed a background check, including the one used to buy the Ruger AR-556 assault rifle used in the attack.
Jake Perrow, a junior business management major said that there was a mistake that was made in not reporting the convictions but that it still would not have stopped Kelley.
“Obviously they should have reported it, but it sounds like this guy was pretty intent on this,” Perrow said. “Even had they reported it, that’s somebody who is sick enough to still find a way to do it.”
Kelley killed and injured people from an unborn child to a 77-year-old woman. One victim of this shooting was the pastor’s daughter, Annabelle Pomeroy, whose parents were in Oklahoma during the time of the shooting.
Frank Pomeroy, Annabelle’s father and the church pastor is remaining faithful through this difficult time.
“Whatever life brings to you, lean on the Lord rather than your own understanding. I don’t understand, but I know my God does,” Pomeroy said at a press conference.
This shooting is just one of many recent mass shootings this year in the U.S. and again brought the conversation of gun regulation to the forefront of conversation. Juli Salce, a political science major believes some changes need to be made.
“Yes we have that second amendment right, but I don’t think everyone is competent to own a gun, so I think there needs to be stricter ways to buy a gun and a way to close loopholes to buy guns,” Salce said.
Most recently on Oct. 30, three people were shot to death inside a Wal-Mart in Thornton, Colo. with no warning and no suspected motive.
There was also the Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1, where Stephen Paddock open fired on the crowd at a music festival. He killed 58 and injured hundreds more, making it the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
The Sutherland Springs shooting is the most recent church related shooting to happen this year. On Sept. 22, a gunman opened fire on a small church in Antioch, Tenn. where he killed one person and injured six others. This shooting is suspected to be in response to the shooting that happened in 2015 in Charleston, S.C.