‘THAT’S WHEN THE SHOTS STARTED’ — Survivors recount church shooting


5:15 p.m. update: Joaquin Ramirez and Rosanne Solis walked into First Baptist Church on Sunday just minutes before the shots began to ring out.

Ramirez, 50, and Solis, 57, a longtime couple who live in First Baptist’s neighborhood, were sitting in their usual spot — fourth row on the left side — at the small church in Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed Sunday morning and another 20 were injured.

The couple had arrived around 11 a.m., when the service began. The church band had played at least one worship song, and church members were beginning weekly announcements. People were still greeting each other, hugging and waving toward one another.

Then Solis and Ramirez heard what sounded like firecrackers.

“That’s when the shots started,” Solis said. “Everybody started running and screaming.”

The first shots appeared to be coming from the roof, Solis and Ramirez said.

Suddenly,Ramirez felt heat rush up his left ankle. Solis felt the same, but on her left arm. They both dropped to the ground. Ramirez draped his body on top of Solis.

A second round of shots banged from above, then Ramirez and Solis heard First Baptist’s front doors open. The shooter, now identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, was inside.

He yelled that everyone was going to die, Solis said, and started shooting again.

“I could see his feet moving,” Solis said. “He shot anyone who got in the way. Even babies. It didn’t matter.”

Kelley moved down the middle aisle of the two rows of seating at the church, picking off person by person.

He approached the stage and shot there, too, Ramirez said. At that moment, Ramirez crawled toward the front doors and escaped. He ran to find police.

Inside, Solis tried to play dead underneath one of the church pews. She opened her eyes briefly and saw blood around her.

After Kelley had shot everyone at the stage, he appeared to move back toward the church doors, Solis said. He continued to fire.

After a few minutes, he appeared to run out of ammunition, Solis said. He dropped two rifles on the ground, she said, and ran out.

Solis was too afraid to move.

“I heard silence,” she said. “Then I heard screaming. Children were screaming. People were screaming.”

Solis slowly rose. She looked to her left and saw a young boy on his stomach. He wasn’t moving. She looked behind her and saw an man splattered with blood, his arms waved behind him and his head tilted back. In front of her, a man holding a little girl screamed through tears.

Dozens of people lay on the ground.

“I thought Joaquin was dead,” Solis said.

She picked up her shoes, which had fallen off, slipped them on and walked outside. Police and medical personnel would soon arrive. It had only been about half an hour since service began.

Solis could hardly think straight.

Later, as she was getting treated for the shot that pierced her left arm, she saw Ramirez approaching her.

Both couldn’t believe that each other had survived.

“We felt nothing but joy,” Ramirez said. “We were alive.”

4 p.m. update: Comal County authorities on Tuesday said the man who shot and killed 26 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs on Sunday was also involved in a sexual assault investigation in 2013.

Investigators have already uncovered that the gunman, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, was convicted by a military court of domestic abuse and was released from the U.S. Air Force through a bad-conduct discharge. Earlier on Tuesday, an El Paso police report from 2012 indicated that Kelley had also tried to carry out death threats against his chain of command.

The latest discovery of information about Kelley by the Comal County sheriff’s office began as part of the investigation into the church shooting, according to a statement released by the sheriff’s office and first reported by KTBC-Fox 7.

“The suspect was discovered to have been involved in an alleged Sexual Assault that occurred in Comal County in 2013. The alleged sexual assault investigation stalled sometime in October 2013 for reasons yet to be determined,” the statement said. “Additionally, a call for service was located for a disturbance in February 2014 at the suspect’s residence. This call resulted in no offense report being generated.”

The statement concludes that “until a final determination is received by the District Attorney’s Office on the release of full reports regarding these calls, the Comal County Sheriff’s Office will have no additional information to provide.”

1:45 p.m. update: Devin Patrick Kelley, the man accused of killing 26 people inside a South Texas church on Sunday, had escaped an El Paso-area mental facility five years ago after he had been caught sneaking guns onto Holloman Air Force Base, where he was trying to carry out death threats to his chain of command, according to a 2012 El Paso police report.

KTSM-TV in El Paso reported that Kelley’s first wife filed for divorce on May 3, 2012, just a month before he escaped from Peak Behavioral Center in Santa Teresa, N.M.

RAW DOCUMENT: Read the 2012 report filed by El Paso police

In a police report first obtained by KRPC-TV in Houston, two El Paso police officers picked up Kelley at a bus terminal in downtown El Paso before midnight on June 7, 2012. The officers were responding to calls about a missing person and had been dispatched to the terminal. They wrote that they were told Kelley “was a danger to himself and others” and noted that he “was also facing military criminal charges.”

According to the report, Kelley was released to Sunland Park police in New Mexico.

The last page of the report notes that an entry was submitted to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database.

RELATED: ‘I am not a hero,’ says man who stopped gunman

12:20 p.m. update: Investigators seeking answers to Sunday’s shooting rampage at a South Texas church say they have been unable to unlock the smartphone belonging to the suspected shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley.

Officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives briefed reporters about the status of the investigation Tuesday morning.

FBI officials said Kelley’s phone had been recovered and flown to out for forensic study at the agency’s facilities in Quantico, Va.

FBI Special Agent Chris Combs declined to describe what kind of phone Kelley used, out of concern that it would embolden criminals to use that technology.

Combs added that Kelley did not appear in any FBI criminal database before Sunday’s shooting.

The ATF’s Fred Malinowski said he wanted to clarify reports about the firearm Kelley used, saying that all evidence so far indicated that Kelley’s Ruger 556 rifle was a semi-automatic weapon.

Casings from scene were being entered into a federal database to determine if the rifle was used in any other shootings, Malinowski said.

Investigators also said no evidence suggested a bump stock was used as it was in the mass shooting in Las Vegas last month, but officials declined to provide any other details about Kelley’s weapon.

The shooting attack at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs killed 26 people and injured 20 others. Kelley, the suspected shooter, was wounded twice while exchanging gunfire with a bystander, officials said. Kelley was found dead after a high-speed chase involving the bystander, Stephen Willeford, and another man.

Earlier: Survivors of a deadly shooting attack at a South Texas church on Sunday said the gunman appeared to be targeting crying babies and screaming children.

Roseanne Solis and her husband, Joaquin Ramirez, had been attending services at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs on Sunday when a man, identified by authorities as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, opened fire on the congregation, killing 26 parishioners and injuring 20 others.

RELATED: Church shooting victims include 8 members of one family

The couple described for KSAT-TV in San Antonio on Monday how the violence unfolded inside the church that day.

Ramirez, who was hit by shrapnel, said Kelley entered the church and first shot those in charge of the camera and audio of the service, before moving down the center aisle toward those on the church dais.

Solis, who was shot in the shoulder, said a moment of silence passed before Kelley yelled, “Everybody die!” and then another round of gunfire began.

RELATED: Domestic dispute may have prompted church shooting

The gunman went through the pews, looking for survivors, the couple said.

“Los babies lloraban, y cuando lloraban, a vara: Rat-tat-tat-tat,” Ramirez said in Spanish, explaining that when the babies cried, the gunman shot them point blank.

Ramirez told KSAT he made eye contact with Pastor Frank Pomeroy’s 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, who was crying for help. He said he signaled with his finger for her to be quiet because Kelley was picking off survivors. She was later found among the dead.

MORE: Get complete coverage of the church shooting, including photos and video

Officials tell the Associated Press that at least five people, including two children, who were injured in the shooting are still recovering at hospitals on Tuesday.

A spokesman for University Health System in San Antonio said their conditions range from serious to critical.

This report contains material from the Associated Press and the San Antonio Express-News



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Traffic report for Monday, Feb. 26

Interstate 35 (Travis County): The northbound outside lane will be closed between Boggy Creek and Stassney Lane from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday nights. The William Cannon exit will be closed as needed. The southbound outside lane will be closed between Stassney and Boggy Creek from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Thursday nights. Reduced...
Split vote likely on removing Confederate names from Austin schools
Split vote likely on removing Confederate names from Austin schools

A split vote is expected Monday night as the Austin school board decides whether to remove Confederate names from five campuses. At least five of trustees, the minimum needed to move the measure forward, have expressed support for the measure. But others on the board continue to raise concerns about the name changes, saying the board’s action...
Catholic bishops sever ties to Texas Right to Life, exposing rift
Catholic bishops sever ties to Texas Right to Life, exposing rift

Exposing a deep and widening rift in the state’s energetic anti-abortion movement, the Catholic bishops of Texas have directed churches across the state to refrain from working with Texas Right to Life, which bills itself as the “oldest and largest statewide pro-life organization.” According to a written directive, Texas Right to...
FluMist returns for next flu season, but it won’t be for everyone
FluMist returns for next flu season, but it won’t be for everyone

Next flu season, most people will again have the choice between a flu shot and FluMist, an inhaled live virus vaccine. Last week, AstraZeneca, the maker of FluMist, announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the vaccine for the 2018-19 season, two years after...
Amid complaints, Travis County judges change ‘jail reduction’ court
Amid complaints, Travis County judges change ‘jail reduction’ court

Two Austin defense lawyers are demanding Travis County discontinue a misdemeanor court docket they say pressures indigent defendants to accept bad plea deals — and even plead guilty to crimes they did not commit — in exchange for their release from jail. The Jail Reduction Docket is unconstitutional, perpetuates poverty and mirrors characteristics...
More Stories