SAN ANTONIO (CN) – Investigators are examining a "domestic situation” as a motive for the largest mass shooting in Texas history that left 26 people dead, including an 18-month-old child, and injured dozens more inside a small Baptist church near San Antonio.
“This was not racially motivated, it wasn’t over religious beliefs, there was a domestic situation going on with the family and in-laws,” Freeman Martin, the regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Monday.
Law enforcement officials offered more information at a news conference Monday morning, less than 24 hours after the attack on the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where the dead ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years old. All bodies have been removed from the crime scene to be autopsied at the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The names of those killed will be released as soon as next of kin is notified. As many as 14 children and a pregnant woman are said to be among the dead.
Twenty people were injured and transported to San Antonio hospitals, and 10 remain in critical condition. They range in age from 5 to 73 years old.
“The suspect’s mother-in-law attended this church. We know that he had made threatening texts and we can’t go into detail into that domestic situation that is continuing to be vetted and thoroughly investigated,” Martin said.
Officials say 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley drove from his home in New Braunfels to the church some 50 miles away wearing all black “tactical-type gear” and a ballistic vest.
The white gunman exited his vehicle at about 11:20 am and began firing from his Ruger assault-style rifle at the church, turned his attention to shooting the right side of the church, and then entered and continued to fire rounds.
Investigators remain tight-lipped about how the grisly shooting unfolded inside the place of worship some 30 miles southeast of downtown San Antonio, but a Texas Rangers spokesman said Monday that a video recording is being analyzed by law enforcement.
“There was some length in time the subject spent inside that church in the shooting event,” according to the spokesman. “He moved around freely inside the church.”
When the gunman walked out of the church, a man armed with his own assault rifle who lives across the street and heard the chaos, exchanged gunfire with him. That man, described by investigators as a “Texas hero,” flagged down a second Good Samaritan and they both followed Kelley’s Ford Expedition through the quiet community home to about 600 people.
“I did what I thought I needed to do,” Johnnie Langendorff, one of the men who pursued the gunman told San Antonio news station KABB/WOAI. “They said that there’s a shooting. I pursued and I just, just did what I thought was the right thing to do.”
The chase ended when the gunman lost control of his vehicle and police found his lifeless body in his crashed car. Investigators are still determining exactly how he was killed, but it is believed he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Kelley called his father during the chase to say “he didn’t think he would make it,” according to law enforcement who briefed reporters Monday.
The local residents who chased him were not injured.