Pence, Abbott visit Sutherland Springs as all victims’ names released


Highlights

Authorities released Wednesday the names of the 26 people killed Sunday.

Video used to record the church’s services captured the attack, which lasted about 7 minutes, officials said.

Vice President Mike Pence met with victims and their relatives during his visit Wednesday.

Pence said he was “deeply moved” by the church community’s faith and resilience.

Hours before Vice President Mike Pence arrived in South Texas to mourn the shooting deaths of 26 people killed Sunday inside a rural church, officials released the names of those who died.

Nine children were shot to death, including the 16-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor. The death toll includes the fetus of Crystal Holcombe, who also was killed. Seven other members of the Holcombe family died.

The shooting rampage lasted about seven minutes, according to a video that an official familiar with the shooting investigation described Wednesday to The New York Times and The Associated Press. The video showed Devin Patrick Kelley shooting churchgoers in the head with a rifle.

A video service that First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs uses to record Sunday services for online archiving captured the attack. The AP said the official’s account matches those given by attack survivors.

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS SHOOTING: Survivors struggle to pick up pieces after massacre

Meanwhile, Pence met Wednesday with some of the 20 injured victims being treated at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and received a briefing from law enforcement officials in Sutherland Springs. Pence was joined by Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas first lady Cecilia Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and U.S. Reps. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, and Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, traveled with Pence and the vice president’s wife, Karen, from Washington.

Pence was somber when talking about the shooting.

“Three days ago, evil descended on this small town,” he said, according to a pool report. “Karen and I come to this place with a heavy heart.”

But he called First Baptist Church a “special church,” adding he was “deeply moved by (church members’) faith and resilience.”

About two hours before a vigil in Floresville was set to begin, reports of multiple shots fired caused a brief commotion but eventually proved to be unfounded. The Wilson County News described a situation involving an active shooter near a nursing home and a park on Hospital Boulevard, but, after interviewing witnesses, Floresville police gave the all-clear and determined the reports had been false.

Hundreds of people attended Wednesday evening’s vigil, including Diana Escobar, 45, who was there with her husband and three children.

At the line before the vigil started, Escobar said she had worked for 11 years at H-E-B in Floresville with 62-year-old Keith Braden, who was killed Sunday.

“It’s just very hard,” Escobar said through tears. “We’ve always been a close community. This event tonight helps us share memory of people. I hope things like this don’t happen, but they do.”

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Nearby, 15-year-old Amber Estrada stood with her family. Estrada attends Floresville High School with Hailey McNulty, who was shot and injured Sunday.

Children around Estrada’s age or younger were among the 26 dead at the shooting. Estrada said she is having a difficult time grasping that.

“That could have been any of us,” she said. “They lost their lives so young, and at church. It happened to our community. It’s good to know people are here for these families. Everybody will always remember this time.”

As people filled the stands of the school’s football stadium, some greeted each other with hugs, while others huddled together as a breeze and dropping temperature settled in.

Members of several Christian groups wrapped their arms around each other and held a prayer circle. Among them was a group of 14 from Lutheran Church Charities, a Christian care ministry, along with their five comfort dogs.

Pence also attended the vigil, where he met with victims’ relatives at the high school’s library. He hugged many as he asked them about their connection to the attack.

“The whole country’s praying over you,” he told one man who’d lost his sister-in-law. “This church family is touching the whole country.”

Also Wednesday, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters on a conference call he wants to know who in the U.S. Air Force failed to alert the FBI of two assault convictions that should have prevented Kelley from purchasing guns legally.

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Cornyn said he visited with Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein, who assured the senator that his office would take appropriate action.

Kelley purchased four guns — one a year from 2014 to 2017 — despite convictions in 2012 after fracturing his baby stepson’s skull and assaulting his wife. Kelley was discharged from the Air Force for bad conduct and confined for one year. But the convictions never were uploaded to an FBI database that would have prevented him from acquiring firearms legally. The Air Force released a statement Monday saying an investigation is underway.

“There was a massive noncompliance with the current law,” Cornyn said. “I’m pretty much convinced if the law had been complied with, and people had done what they were supposed to do, the shooter never would have gotten his hands on a legal firearm. That’s not to say he couldn’t have bought it illegally or gotten it some other way or used a car to mow down innocent people.”

Cornyn reiterated that he’s interested in introducing legislation that would give states funding to improve their reporting efforts.



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