Pastor's 14-Year-Old Daughter Among at Least 26 Killed in Texas Church Shooting
The 14-year-old daughter of a church pastor in Texas was among the more than two dozen killed when a gunman opened fire during a service on Sunday.
Pastor Frank Pomeroy confirmed to ABC News his youngest daughter, Annabelle, was killed in the shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.
“[She] was one very beautiful, special child,” said Pastor Pomeroy, who was in Oklahoma when the shooting occurred.
"Heaven truly gained a real beautiful angel this morning along with many more," the teen's uncle wrote on Facebook. "I lost a lot of friends and family this morning but that just means Jesus needed them more. I know all that have taken their last breath of dirty air and took their first breath of heavenly air with new bodies with no pain and suffering."
At least 26 were killed in what Gov. Greg Abbott called the deadliest mass shooting in the state’s history.
Eight members spanning three generations of a single family — including a pregnant woman and three of her five children — were also among the dead.
Associate Pastor Bryan Holcombe was walking up to the podium to lead the congregation in worship when he was killed, his parents said.
His wife Karla Holcombe was also fatally shot.
The couple was remembered for their generosity and devout natures.
Both volunteered at local prisons, where Bryan Holcombe was often found playing his ukulele for inmates, family said.
"We knew when he was born, that he was going to be a preacher,” Joe Holcombe, his father, told The Washington Post. “His first word was God.”
The couple, who had been together more than two decades, owned a canvas repair shop in Floresville, The Daily Beast reported.
Joe Holcombe told the Post Bryan and Karla Holcombe’s son Marc Daniel Holcombe, 36, and his 1-year-old daughter, Noah Holcombe, were also killed.
Their daughter-in-law, Crystal Holcombe, who was pregnant, was shot and killed. She and her husband, John Holcombe, who was in the church but survived, had five children.
Only two of those children survived the shooting. Their daughters Emily and Megan and their son Greg, were killed in the attack.
Other victims killed in the massacre included Joann Ward and her daughters Brooke Ward, 5, and Emily Garza, 7, the New York Daily News reported.
They are survived by Chris Ward, who reportedly received word of the shooting by a family member.
Ward's sister-in-law Leslie Ward told The News that she rushed to the church after hearing the gunfire from her home.
She found Joann and Chris' 5-year-old son Ryland Ward lying among the pews. He had been shot four times and had to be airlifted to University Hospital in San Antonio to undergo surgery, his aunt said. He is reportedly now in stable condition.
"Ryland is the only one left," McKinley Ward, the children's cousin, told The Dallas Morning News.
Officials said at least 20 more people ranging in age from 5 to 72 were injured.
The gunman was dressed in all-black tactical gear, including a ballistic vest, when he opened fire, Freeman Martin, a regional director with the Texas Department of Public Safety, told CNN.
The shooter left the church and reportedly fled as a local resident used his own rifle to engage him.
Residents chased after the gunman, who drove off in a Ford Explorer before losing control of his vehicle and crashing in a ditch, witnesses said.
Law enforcement later found the suspect dead of a gunshot wound inside his vehicle.
Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told CBS News that Kelley fatally shot himself after crashing his car while being pursued by residents.
Officials identified the gunman as Devin Patrick Kelley, a 26-year-old former U.S. Air Force airman with a history of legal troubles.
In 2012, Kelley was court-martialed and sentenced to a year in military prison for assaulting his wife and child, an Air Force spokeswoman told The Washington Post.
Police were working to identify the shooter’s motive.
CNN reported that the gunman’s in-laws were members of the church, but were not in attendance on Sunday.