Nearly Half of Those Killed in the Texas Church Shooting Were Children, Officials Say

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Yesterday, as many families across the country worshipped in church, a gunman entered the First Baptist Church in Sutherland, Texas, and carried out the worst mass shooting in Texas history. At least 26 people were killed and more than 20 were wounded. Now, the latest reports have revealed that about half of the victims killed were children.

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Freeman Martin, regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told CNN on Sunday that the youngest victim of the shooting was just 18 months old. Between 12 and 14 other children were also killed, including the pastor's 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle. Several of those hospitalized with serious injuries are also children, including 6-year-old Rylan Ward, who was shot four times, and his stepsister, Emily, who is in critical condition.


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According to law enforcement officials, the shooter has been identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley. He's a former member of the US Air Force who was discharged after being court-martialed in 2012 for assault on his spouse and child. Kelley reportedly entered First Baptist Church around 11:20 am and started shooting. Police say that after he exited the church, he engaged in a shootout with an armed neighbor who heard the commotion. He attempted to flee in his vehicle and was later found dead with what officials believe was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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In a press conference, Freeman Martin said the shooting was not racially or religiously motivated but they do believe Kelley's history of domestic violence played a role. He allegedly threatened his mother-in-law, who attends First Baptist Church, in several text messages prior to the shooting, though she was not in attendance on the morning of the massacre. Texas Governor Greg Abbott tells CNN they are currently investigating how the alleged shooter was able to obtain a gun, despite being denied a gun license in April 2016 due to his criminal past.

The shooting is the fifth deadliest mass shooting in US history and has devastated the small town of Sutherland. With its population of only 600 people, local officials say the death toll amounts to about 4 percent of the town's population. At least 10 of the 20 wounded are still in critical condition. One family lost eight members to the violence, including three children and their mother, who was eight months pregnant.

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In the wake of yet another mass shooting just five weeks after the massacre in Las Vegas, many are calling on congress to make serious changes to gun laws, including Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut, who wrote in a statement on Twitter, "None of this is inevitable. I know this because no other country endures this pace of mass carnage like America. It is uniquely and tragically American. As long as our nation chooses to flood the county with dangerous weapons and consciously let those weapons fall into the hands of dangerous people, these killings will not abate."


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As a nation, we're collectively heartbroken today. But we should be angry, too. Angry that it feels like nowhere is safe; angry that we can't protect our children; angry that no amount of loss and devastation seems to be enough to motivate us to come together and find a solution to this problem.

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