10 p.m. update: Hundreds gathered Wednesday evenin at Floresville High School and packed stadium bleachers to hear songs and words of worship in honor of the 26 killed on Sunday at First Baptist Church in nearby Sutherland Springs.
They sang along as “Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin was played. They listened intently as Vice President Mike Pence, Gov. Greg Abbott and community church leaders spoke words of encouragement at the vigil. They bowed their heads in prayer and held each other under the chilly night.
Afterwards, 38-year-old Floresville resident David Collins, who knew members of the Holcombe family that were killed Sunday, said he felt some hope amid the tragedy.
“The leaders of the state and country have summed it up: Texas is strong, our people are strong and our faith is strong,” Collins said. “We’re absolutely going to move forward. Our faith is unwavering.”
Jim McPhee, 67, and his wife, Donna McPhee, 62, said afterwards that they were inspired by how the community came together Wednesday night.
The McPhees are friends with a family member of someone who was shot, they said, though they didn’t provide further details.
“Tonight was beautiful,” Donna McPhee said. “It’s amazing how people come together.”
Dora Valdez, 48, a Floresville resident, said that it’s comforting for this town to know that it is not alone.
“By continuing to pray and being here for each other is how we’re going to heal,” she said.
Greg Williams stood with his daughters huddled together, some wrapped in blankets in the mid-50s chill of the night as the crowds left the stadium. The Floresville family had friends that went to the church. Most didn’t make it, Williams said.
“The town needed some uplifting talk and we got some of that,” the 59-year-old said. “We’re a community built on faith, and it bolstered that outlook, and we’re moving forward.”
Williams said he appreciated hearing from Abbott and Pence, and knowing that the state and country are behind them.
Their speeches, he said, aligned with what the survivors of Sutherland Springs and those that lost loved ones there are feeling.
“It’s about not getting into an evil act and letting it tear your world apart,” Williams said. “It hurts, but we have a belief and a faith that love conquers evil. They both reinforced that.”
Armando Acosta, co-pastor of Free By The Truth Ministry in San Antonio, said the coming together for the vigil was just what the community needed.
Acosta also spoke highly of the vice president and governor’s remarks.
“It’s a powerful thing when we have leadership like that that believe in God,” Acosta said.
“Yes, amen,” his wife Rosalinda said. “The messages that they delivered tonight were very empowering for all the families that lost their loved ones.”
Some came from afar to participate and stand with the community. Mary Hanley, 57, drove in from Houston.
“It was just beautiful to see people come together to pray and support the community,” Hanley said.
8:30 p.m. update: Speaking Wednesday night at a vigil in Floresville for the victims of the Sutherland Springs shooting, Vice President broke up when he talked about his meeting earlier with one of the survivors.
Pence said he and his wife were praying for those recovering from injuries, but the survivor offered to pray for Pence as well.
“I was not prepared,” Pence said, adding he was inspired by all the victims and their families.
Pence says they find hope in first responders and others who helped that day, including the “Texas heroes” who pursued the attacker and saved lives.
The comments were received with loud applause. Hundreds had filled to the brim the stands of the Floresville High school stadium, some draped in American Red Cross blankets to protect themselves from the chill of this Texas November night.
Pence said President Trump wanted him to come to Texas tonight “to tell all of you we are with you. The American people are with you … We will never leave your side.”
Pence said everyone was marveled at Frank Pomeroy, the grieving pastor of First Baptist Church who was still able to lead a community in prayer. Pence said he was “humbled and inspired by that expression of faith.”
“That’s what Americans do. We come together,” he said. “Faith is stronger than evil. No attack and no act of violence will ever diminish the strength of the American people.”
Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also attended the vigil.
Abbott said Sunday will be a day of prayer.
“As governor of Texas and with the First Lady here with me, we wanted you to know that the people of Texas join with you with heavy hearts as we mourn the loss of innocent lives,” Abbott said.
6:40 p.m. update: Vice President Mike Pence was somber on Wednesday evening when he spoke on the street in front of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, lamenting that three days ago, “evil descended on this small town.”
“Karen and I come to this place with a heavy heart,” he said, according to a pool report.
But he called First Baptist Church a “special church,” adding he was “deeply moved by (church members’) faith and resilience.”
Pence added: “I’m here as Vice President to ensure that the full resources of the United States are brought to bear” at President Trump’s direction, including more than 100 onsite FBI agents.
Pence said the Air Force will deliver results of its internal investigation quickly.
Pence said the killer, identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, committed a crime by even buying the rifle used Sunday.
“He lied on his application. He had a history of mental illness, and there were bureaucratic failures,” Pence said. “We will find out why this information was not properly reported in 2012 and we are working with leaders in Congress to ensure this never happens again.”
At Wednesday’s vigil, Pence stood with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at his side. They were flanked by law enforcement, the two congressmen and Sen. Ted Cruz, according to the pool report.
The group also included First Baptist Church Pastor Frank Pomeroy, and Johnnie Langendorff, who chased down the attacker with local plumber Stephen Willeford after Willeford shot him.
Pence and Abbott shook hands before and after remarks. Pence hugged the pastor and the heroes, as did others.
5:50 p.m. update: By 5 p.m. Wednesday, dozens of people were in line to get into Floresville High School’s football stadium for a prayer service to honor Sutherland Springs shooting victims, an event where Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott were scheduled to speak.
Diana Escobar, 45, was there with her husband and three children. Escobar said she 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. “Everybody has been very emotional. We’re trying not to dwell on the sad. He was a great person.
“We’ve always been a close community,” she added. “This event tonight helps us share memory of people. I hope things like this don’t happen, but they do.”
A few people behind, 15-year-old Amber Estrada stood with her family. Estrada attends Floresville High School with Hailey McNulty, who was shot and injured on 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.”
Jason Gassner, a 34-year-old who is from Sutherland Springs, said he drove from Stockdale to attend the vigil to support the community he grew up in.
“There’s no words for it,” Gassner said. “It’s just very tragic. We just have to move forward. Everybody is showing up here and coming together.”
As people filled the stands of the 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.
CEO Tim Hetzner said the team and their golden retrievers spent the morning at the crime scene in Sutherland Springs, tending to victims and first responders. The group, which has affiliates in 23 states, travels during disaster situations and most recently spent time Las Vegas with victims in the hospital.
“Dogs help people to relax,” Hetzner said. “When they relax, they talk about what the go through.”
One Sutherland Springs man who spent some time with the dogs Wednesday morning told Hetzner it was the first time he’d smiled in four days.
“They’ve had a tough few days,” Hetzner said. “It’s helpful for them to see that there are good people, and people that care.”
2:55 p.m. update: Vice president Mike Pence has arrived at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio.
Pence is scheduled to visit South Texas with second lady Karen Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and U.S. Reps. Will Hurd and Henry Cuellar. The vice president will later join Texas Gov.Greg Abbott in a visit to an area hospital that has been treating victims of the shooting attack at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.
Pence is scheduled to then participate in a briefing with local law enforcement officials in Sutherland Springs.
Later in the evening, Pence and his wife will meet with the families of the victims and join a prayer vigil honoring the 26 people who were killed in the attack.
2:20 p.m. update: Sen. John Cornyn wants to know who in the U.S. Air Force failed to alert the FBI of two assault convictions that should have prevented Sutherland Springs shooter Devin Kelley from purchasing guns legally.
Cornyn told reporters Wednesday on a conference call that 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 a FBI database that would have prevented him from acquiring the weapons legally. The Air Force released a statement Monday saying an investigation is underway.
“There was a massive non-compliance 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 added he’s interested in introducing legislation that would give states funding to improve their reporting efforts.
11:25 a.m.update: On Wednesday, the Texas Department of Public Safety released the names of the 26 people killed in Sunday’s church shooting in Sutherland Springs.
Nine were 16 years or younger, including an unborn child and the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor. One of the slain victims died at the hospital.
- Robert Scott Marshall, 56, male
- Karen Sue Marshall, 56, female
- Keith Allen Braden, 62, male
- Tara E. McNulty, 33, female
- Annabelle Renae Pomeroy, 14, female
- Peggy Lynn Warden, 56, female
- Dennis Neil Johnson, Sr., 77, male
- Sara Johns Johnson, 68, female
- Lula Woicinski White, 71, female
- Joann Lookingbill Ward, 30, female
- Brooke Bryanne Ward, 5, female
- Robert Michael Corrigan, 51, male
- Shani Louise Corrigan, 51, female
- Therese Sagan Rodriguez, 66, female
- Ricardo Cardona Rodriguez, 64, male
- Haley Krueger, 16, female
- Emily Garcia (died at the hospital), 7, female
- Emily Rose Hill, 11, female
- Gregory Lynn Hill, 13, male
- Megan Gail Hill, 9, female
- Marc Daniel Holcombe, 36, male
- Noah Holcombe, 1, female
- Karla Plain Holcombe, 58, female
- John Bryan Holcombe, 60, male
- Crystal Marie Holcombe (pregnant), 36, female, and her fetus, unknown gender
Officials also released the name of the fetus, Carlin Brite “Billy Bob” Holcombe. Under state law, a fetus is an individual and therefore eligible for protection under statutes prohibiting murder. The death of a fetus can be prosecuted as a murder, even if the fetus was too young to survive outside the womb.
Earlier: The last two previously unnamed victims in the shooting attack Sunday at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs have been identified by family members as Keith Braden and Peggy Warden, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Braden, 62, was killed and his wife, Deborah, and his granddaughter were wounded in the shooting, Braden’s brother, Bruce, told the Morning News. Braden was a U.S. Army veteran and cancer survivor, his brother said, who worked at an H-E-B store.
A family member who confirmed Warden’s death in the shooting declined to say anything more to the newspaper before speaking with Warden’s brother, Jimmie Stevens, who talked about his sister with a local television station.
Authorities say 26 people died and 20 others were injured in the state’s deadliest mass shooting in modern history. The accused shooter, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, was found dead shortly after the attack, investigators said.