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26 people, aged between 5 and 72, killed in church shooting in Texas

The gunman, a young white male, is also dead.

church The scene at the church in Sutherland Springs Source: Nick Wagner/AP/Press Association Images

Updated 11.50pm

26 PEOPLE WERE killed by a gunman who opened fire at a church in a small rural town in south Texas today.

Governor Greg Abbott confirmed the death toll at a press conference late this evening.

Twenty others were taken to hospital with injuries described as “from minor to very severe”. The shooter, described as a young white male, is also dead. It is unclear if he died from a self-inflicted wound or from fire after he was “engaged” by a local resident during the attack.

The shooting took place at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, about 48km southeast of San Antonio. The suspect walked into the building during a service usually attended by about 50 people and started firing.

According to a Department of Public Safety official, he had been spotted at a petrol station just prior to the shooting.

“At 11.20 this morning, a suspect was seen at a Valero gas station in Sutherland Springs, Texas,” regional director Freeman Martin told reporters gathered at Stockdale, Texas at 11.30pm.

“He was dressed in all black. That suspect crossed the street to the church, exited his vehicle and began firing at the church. That suspect then moved to the right side of the church and continued to fire. That suspect entered the church and continued to fire.”

Martin explained that following the attack, a Sutherland Springs local’s actions led the shooter to drop his gun and flee. He told the press conference:

As he exited the church, a local resident grabbed his rifle and engaged that suspect. The suspect dropped his rifle – which was a Ruger AR assault-type rifle – and fled the church.

“A local citizen pursued the suspect at that time. A short time later… that suspect ran off the roadway and crashed out. He was found deceased in his vehicle. At this time, we don’t know if it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound or if he was shot by a local resident who engaged him in gun fire.

We know he was deceased in the vehicle. The suspect has not been completely identified. We believe he was a young, white male, maybe in his early 20s. He was dressed in all black, tactical-type gear, and was wearing a ballistic vest.

Martin also confirmed that there were a number of weapons found in the suspect’s vehicle, which are being processed by Texas Rangers.

Abbott described it as the largest mass shooting in the state of Texas, saying the tragedy was more devastating as it took place in a church.

“We appreciate the first responders and what they have done,” he added, thanking everyone involved in the emergency response and initial investigations.

Twenty-three victims were discovered inside the church and two people were pronounced dead at the scene outside the building. The 26th victim died while being transported to hospital.

The local sheriff said no victims’ names have been released officially. They range in age from 5 years old to 72 years of age.

max Source: MaxMasseyTV/Twitter

Earlier, the church’s pastor Frank Pomeroy told ABC his 14-year-old daughter is among the dead, calling her a “very beautiful, special child”.

pastor Source: Michael Del Moro/Twitter

‘Evil act’

US President Donald Trump, who is currently in Japan, tweeted: “May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan.”

trump1 Source: Donald Trump/Twitter

Emergency personnel rushed to the scene, and some victims were evacuated by helicopter. Police formed a perimeter around the area, and tearful relatives and neighbours stood outside it, nervously awaiting news from inside the church.

FBI agents are at the scene and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are en route to Sutherland Springs, a town of about 400 people.

tex2 A woman and man pray after the shooting Source: Nick Wagner/AP/Press Association Images

Earlier, Abbott offered his condolences, tweeting: ”Our prayers are with all who were harmed by this evil act. Our thanks to law enforcement for their response.”

The shooting comes just over a month after a gunman in Las Vegas, firing down from a hotel room, killed 58 people and wounded hundreds attending an outdoor concert.

And it comes just over two years after white supremacist Dylann Roof,entered a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and shot nine people to death.

Contains reporting from © AFP 2017, AP and Órla Ryan

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