A Congregation Devastated: Texas Mass Shooting


Infographic created by Madison Isaeff

On the early Sunday morning of November 5, 2017, a young man rampaged into an ongoing church service and departed from it as a mass murderer. In the modest community located on the outside borders of San Antonio, Sutherland Springs, Texas, a day of absolute horror will forever be burned into the minds of those in the congregation and America itself.

The Scene

Known now as the most massive mass shooting to occur in Texas this incident began at the time of 11:30 a.m., local time, where 26-year-old Devin Kelley drove up to the First Baptist Church a gathering well-known him. Surrounding the small chapel, Kelley exploited those panicked inside, and continually shot with an assault-type rifle in a circling format at the exterior of the church, leaving those inside completely frightened for their lives and scattering towards the inside of the church’s pews.

For a few moments, the world seemed to be at an absolute silence until the burst of bullets continued, this time aiming at the innocent. Kelley, dictating at the scene, “ Everybody dies, motherf—–s,” while firing an estimated 450 rounds in the duration. He focused on those who ran and hid, to the point where a wounded survivor of the attack, Rosa Solis, accounted, “ He was shooting the people on the floor. They were on the ground already bleeding…” and her husband, Joaquin Ramirez, also wounded, recurred, “I was praying…because I could see death.” As he persisted, he, in total, killed 25 people and an unborn fetus, injuring 20 more, which was a large majority of those attending the service. The ages of these victims ranged from the youngest Noah Holcombe, 1 year old, to the oldest Dennis Neil Johnson, Sr., 77 years old.

Directly After

As Kelley began to escape the site, Stephen Williford, a resident of the tight-knit community, identified the gunshot sounds. In result, his certification as a shooting instructor allowed him to, take action as he stated in an interview, “This is my town, this is my home…I loved those people that were in there.” Williford, now being acclaimed as an American hero, seized his assault-type rifle and chased after Kelley barefooted. Taking steps to confront the killer, Williford was able to hit Kelley twice. Kelley, likely startled by resistance, took off in his Ford SUV.

Willeford noticed a spectator, 27-year-old Johnnie Langendorff, and rushed over to the man in his white pickup truck. He jumped directly in the passenger’s seat, saying, “He just shot up the church! We have to get him!”

Both Williford and Langendorff, while chasing down Kelley going on-average 90 miles per hour, made efforts to connect with the police. When the men found the SUV crashed into the ditch, 11 miles away from the massacre, Williford, alert and with rifle in hand, made commands to Kelley and the stopped the vehicle. He turned to the driver’s side window to discover Kelley with a bullet in his head, suspected dead from suicide.

The Background

Mugshot of Devin Kelley released by the Texas Department of Public Safety

Devin Kelley, a man acknowledged for his many demons, domestic abuse, animal cruelty and sexual assault allegations, escaped from a psychiatric health facility.

Domestic Abuse:

In 2012, Kelley was charged guilty in court for hitting, kicking, choking and pulling the hair of his first ex-wife, Tessa Brennaman. He also was charged with domestic violence towards fracturing the skull of Brennaman’s young son by harmfully forcefully hitting the boy.

Animal Cruelty:

In 2014, Kelley was accused of repeatedly punching a dog with a closed fist in Colorado Springs, Colorado, by a female onlooker.

Sexual Assault Allegations:

In 2013, Kelley was and currently is connected to alleged sexual assault accusations, but the investigation had mysteriously stopped around October 2013.

Escape from Psychiatric Health Facility:

Kelley, age 21, was able to flee from Peak Behavioral Health Services in New Mexico only to be discovered 10 miles away in a Bus Terminal, in El Paso, Texas.

The Media’s Perspectives

Many influentials of today’s media believe this should have been enough evidence against allowing Kelley the accessibility to firearms. This has brought up an abundance of crucial debates from the left and the right of politics regarding gun control.

The Left:

Liberals believe that a change in the legislature should be made not only for the sake of the victims of these shootings but the future, despite the recent increase in gun laws spreading resources thin. Dwight Watkins, an author, a professor at the University of Baltimore and an editor of the Salon Media Website stated from his article on the growing issue, “We must acknowledge that mass shootings in this country are normal now while remembering that victims deserve justice and to be honored. Most of all, they deserve reform, not just tweets about prayer.”

The Right:

Conservatives follow the belief that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to bear arms should remain as a foundation in America’s law. As quoted from Texas state governor, Greg Abbott, “The important thing is that if you go back to early times of this world, to the times of yesterday and last week, evil exists in this world. I am going to use the words of the citizens of Sutherland Springs themselves, and that is, they want to work together for love to overcome evil, and you do that by working with God.”

Currently, questions remain unanswered on the outlook of the small-town church. However, at the moment, the church and its community ask to keep them in prayers as they recover from that scarring Sunday morning.

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