Texas Church Gunman Walked Up and Down Aisles, Shooting as People Crawled Out of Pews
A camera captured the massacre inside First Baptist Church that saw nearly everyone inside shot or killed.
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas—The gunman who opened fire inside First Baptist Church on Sunday shot his way up and down an aisle separating pews, Sheriff Joe Tackitt told The Daily Beast.
The Texas Department of Public safety said Monday that officials have reviewed footage of the shooting captured by the church’s camera that records weekly services. Tackitt told The Daily Beast that Devin Patrick Kelley “just walked down the center aisle, turned around, and my understanding was, shooting on his way back out.”
Galen Jansky, a former Wilson County constable with knowledge of the investigation, told The Daily Beast that the video shows Kelley began his attack by shooting two people outside the church at approximately 11:30 a.m.
Kelley then fired at the doors while nearly 50 people were listening to a sermon, Jansky said, causing them to take cover in the pews. Once inside, Kelley sprayed bullets into pews as he walked up the center aisle towards the altar, according to Jansky. When Kelley reached the altar, he lingered, then turned around and walked back down the aisle, shooting into each row of pews on both sides as congregants tried to hide.
Kelley killed 26 people, including at least 12 children, and wounded 20 others. One of the wounded is John Holcomb, who was likely filming the service behind the pews, Janksy said. Holcomb’s parents, his wife, Crystal, and three of his children were killed.
The death toll may have been worse if not for four families who did not attend services that day, including Kelley’s mother-in-law who received threatening text messages from him. The FBI said the mass murder was driven by a “domestic dispute.”
“It looked worse than a war zone,” said senior deacon Tim Montgomery. “I’ve been in war and I’ve never seen anything like it. It was a total hit.”
Kelley used an an AR-15 variant assault rifle, authorities said, and wore body armor. Texas Department Public Safety regional director Freeman Martin said at a Monday evening press conference that 15 magazines carrying 30 rounds each were recovered. Hundreds of shell casings were also recovered, indicating Kelley fired that many times.
After he finished firing, Kelley dropped his rifle and returned to his vehicle across the street and fled. A bystander fired at Kelley, striking him in the torso and leg. Kelley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound several miles away.
Correction, 11/2/2017, 11:45 a.m.: A previous version of this article said Jansky had spoken to Tackitt. We regret the error.