Here’s a roundup of some of the latest news regarding the horrific church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas yesterday. Here are the highlights:
- According to reports tonight, 14 victims remain hospitalized, including children.
- All of the victims killed and wounded have not been named, but tonight we know several of their names. Their photos and bios are provided below from various sources.
- Investigators say the shooter, Devin Kelley, was obsessed over a family dispute and with mass shootings.
- He threatened his mother-in-law that morning, although she was not at the church at the time. However, the grandmother-in-law was one of the victims.
- The Air Force failed to report his domestic violence, court-martial history to authorities
Unfortunately, this shooting could have been prevented if the Air Force would have reported his domestic violence record from 2012 to federal and state authorities, which would have prevented him from being able to purchase weapons. At that time, Kelley was dishonorably discharged from the Air Force and was court-martialed, and spent one year in a military prison. Kelley’s past record of domestic violence and animal abuse would have definitely banned him from legally obtaining weapons. But there is no guarantee someone as angry and determined as he was wouldn’t have bought or stolen the weapons from somewhere or someone.
While this mass shooting is another horrific tragedy, these events can not be predicted nor can they always be prevented. Like in most of these mass shootings, the shooter was determined to kill, wore a ballistic vest and was prepared to kill a large number of people. Gun control advocates think the shooting could have been prevented if we had more laws banning weapons and keeping people like him from purchasing guns. At the same time, pro-second amendment advocates believe banning certain weapons would not have prevented him from killing others and that banning certain weapons would have prevented the good guy with a gun from stopping the massacre by shooting Kelley and bravely pursuing him.
Additionally, more laws have not prevented these mass shootings, the laws were not enforced in this case and although he was banned from purchasing a weapon, he was able to obtain four weapons over the past four years because the military failed to report his record in the national database. In addition, what people fail to understand or accept is that evil exists in the world and the only way to prevent it is to be more prepared ourselves. Churches and other ‘soft targets’, such as schools, shopping malls, etc may want to consider better security, or by allowing churchgoers to protect and defend themselves and carry their own weapons.
Tonight CNN is reporting the following:
Joann Ward, Brooke Ward, and Emily Garza
Joann Ward was attending church on Sunday when she and two of her daughters, Brooke Ward, 5, and Emily Garza, 7, were killed. Their deaths were confirmed to The Dallas Morning News late Sunday.
Sandy Ward, Brooke and Emily’s grandmother, told MSNBC Emily was “a sweet little girl.” At the time, she said she was still waiting for news about Brooke.
“She was just such a good little girl. She was so helpful. She would help. Anything you asked her to do, she was always happy and cheerful,” the grandmother said on MSNBC.
Joann had four children, all of whom were with her at church. One of her daughters survived, and her son, Ryland Ward, 5, was also shot, but survived and was rushed to surgery. As of Monday morning, Ryland was in stable condition, according to his aunt who spoke to The Dallas Morning News.
“Joann was such a wonderful mother whose whole life was her children and family,” Joann’s uncle, John Alexander, wrote on Facebook Monday morning. “My heart is broken.”
Alexander also set up a GoFundMe to cover funeral and medical costs for the family. “Joann was the most wonderful mom any child could wish for and her children were always laughing and loving life,” he wrote.
The following MSNBC video covers much of the interview with the Ward grandmother, as well as additional reports during and after the shooting:
According to NBC, the family of the shooter Devin Patrick Kelley is in shock.
Relatives of the gunman said they were shocked by the news.
“I never in a million years could’ve believed Devin could be capable of this kind of thing,” Dave Ivey, the shooter’s uncle, told NBC News. “I am numb. … My family will suffer because of his coward actions. … I am so sorry for the victims in Texas.”
How the family could be in shock is surprising considering Kelley had been court-martialed for domestic violence against his wife and infant stepson, nearly killing the child by fracturing his skull. Additionally, Kelley had previously been accused of animal abuse when he lived in Colorado. Witnesses at the time said Kelley was beating his Husky, punching him in the head and dragging him by the neck.
CBN News reports the following regarding the Holcombe family who lost three generations of family members to the Texas church massacre:
The extent of the impact that the event had on the Holcombe family is both staggering and unfathomable, as the elderly couple lost their son, Bryan Holcombe, and his wife, Karla, in addition to their grandson, Marc Daniel Holcombe, as well as his baby daughter — and their great-granddaughter — Noah.
They also lost Crystal Holcombe, the wife of their grandson, John Holcombe, three of their great-grandchildren — Emily, Megan and Greg — and the unborn baby Crystal was carrying, who was reportedly due to be born in April; John Holcombe and two additional children survived.
But despite that immensely painful situation, Joe Holcombe, 86, told Faithwire that he and his wife “are very close to God” and have not wavered in their faith as a result of Sunday’s traumatic events.
“We’re strong,” he said before speaking of a future time when he believes he and his wife will see their family members again in heaven. “We’ll be with Bryan and his wife and the whole family one of these days — and we look forward to that.”
When Holcombe was asked what he would say to the family of suspected shooter Devin Kelley, he said that he didn’t know, though he offered up what can only be summarized as a stunning amount of forgiveness.
“I don’t hold any resentment to him. I wish he hadn’t of done it, but all I can say is that he is going to be rewarded for what he did — and he’s not going to like that reward,” he said. “I don’t hate him by any means; I just feel sorry for him.”
Washington Post reports, Holcombe said that his grandson, John Holcombe, who lost his pregnant wife, unborn child and three children in the rampage, is still at a hospital in San Antonio with his 5-year-old daughter, who doctors are observing.
Bryan Holcombe was walking up to the pulpit, preparing to lead the congregation in worship, when a gunman identified by officials as Devin Kelley began to spray bullets at the worshipers.
Holcombe, an associate pastor of the church, was killed in the gunfire, his parents, Joe and Claryce Holcombe, said in an interview with The Washington Post.
Karla Holcombe, Bryan Holcombe’s wife of about four decades, was killed, too, Joe Holcombe said.
Bryan and Karla Holcombe’s son Marc Daniel Holcombe, 36, also was killed, Joe Holcombe said.
Marc Daniel had an infant daughter, Noah Holcombe, who, was a year old, Joe Holcombe said. She is dead, too.
Another son of Bryan and Karla, John Holcombe, survived, but his wife, Crystal Holcombe, who was pregnant, did not.
Crystal had five children. Three of them, Emily, Megan and Greg, died. The two others survived.
That’s eight members of the extended Holcombe family dead, in addition to the unborn baby.
Authorities said at least 26 people were killed in a shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in South Texas on Nov. 5. (Patrick Martin, Elyse Samuels, Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)
All at once, Joe and Claryce Holcombe lost children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and a future great-grandchild.
The act of violence that claimed lives from generations of their loved ones took place in the space that mattered to them most: their church.
The Holcombes were among the 26 people authorities say were killed in Sunday’s mass shooting, described by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) as the worst in Texas history.
Crystal Holcombe home-schooled her five children and was heavily involved in the church, like the rest of the family. On Facebook, she reported proudly of the children’s successes in competitions for their local 4-H club, and wrote about a recent bake sale in which the girls participated, benefiting families affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Rojean Staggs, 66, of Floresville, said she had rented an apartment to Crystal and described her as a sweet and natural mother to a large brood.
“Crystal was a breath of fresh air. She loved children,” Staggs said. “She had a full house and just seemed to take to it beautifully.”
The shooting at First Baptist Church shattered scores of other families in this rural, tight-knit community.
Frank Pomeroy, the pastor of First Baptist Church, told ABC News that he did not attend the church service but that his teenage daughter, Annabelle Pomeroy, 14, was killed.
“She was very quiet, shy, always smiling, and helpful to all,” Cynthia Rangel, 50, a resident of Stockdale, Tex., said of Annabelle Pomeroy. Rangel, a local emergency medical technician, said she knew three people who were hospitalized after the shooting and were undergoing surgery. “This just all seems like it’s not real.”
As Michael Ward pulled wounded congregants out of the church, he searched for his sister-in-law, three nieces and a nephew, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
“My nephew was outside with four bullets in him,” he said of Ryland Ward, 5.
“And Rhianna, the bullet broke her glasses, and broke ’em off, and she said she hid underneath the pew and didn’t get hit,” he said of his 9-year-old niece.
Sandy Ward told MSNBC that her 5-year-old grandson was in surgery and that her 7-year-old granddaughter was killed.
She waited at the hospital Sunday with her son.
“He’s a wreck, of course, as you can imagine,” Ward told MSNBC. “I’m just in shock.”
“I’m numb,” she added. “My whole body’s just numb.”
Joe and Claryce Holcombe said they’re still coming to terms with what happened. The shooter, Joe Holcombe said, is “being rewarded right now for what he did, and for all of eternity.”
Please keep these families and their loved ones in your prayers. We may never have all the answers, but through love and kindness to one another tragedies like this could one day be prevented. In the meantime, tell your family you love them, hug and kiss them goodbye each day and prepare yourself for the worst by being proactive and prepared to defend yourself and others.