At least 26 people were killed and 20 others injured when a gunman stormed a church in rural Texas with a rifle this morning, said Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Victims’ ages range from five to 72, authorities said.
The alleged shooter, a 26-year-old man, is also dead following the massacre in Sutherland Springs, about 40 miles southeast of San Antonio, bringing the total number of fatalities to 27, authorities said.
The shooter allegedly fled the scene in a vehicle and was later found dead in the vehicle in Guadalupe County, according to the sheriff and the Department of Public Safety. It’s not yet clear if he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound or if he was shot by another person, officials said at a press conference this afternoon at Stockdale City Hall, near the church.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called this the largest mass shooting in Texas history.
14-year-old girl among the victims
Among those killed at the First Baptist Church was a 14-year-old girl named Annabelle Renee Pomeroy, according to her father, Frank Pomeroy, who is a pastor at the church.
Annabelle “was one very beautiful, special child,” Pomeroy told ABC News by phone.
Pomeroy said he was in Oklahoma this morning — a rare weekend that he wasn’t at the church.
The other victims are all close friends of his, he said.
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‘We heard several shots and we all started running’
A woman who said she works at a gas station across the street from the church told ABC News she heard rapid gunfire around 11:15 a.m.
Congregants fled the church and ran to the station cowering for cover, she said.
“We heard several shots and we all started running inside the store,” said the woman, who said she is 49 but declined to give her name.
“It lasted about 15 seconds,” she said. “I yelled, ‘Get down! Get inside!’ and we all went into hiding.”
Within minutes of the gunfire, emergency personnel arrived at the scene, she said.