Peoples Digest Online – Texas church gunman Devin Kelley shot crying babies at point-blank range with his assault rifle, a couple who survived the masacre said. Rosanne Solis and Joaquin Ramirez were sitting near the entrance to the First Baptist Church on Sunday when they heard what sounded like firecrackers. Ms Solis said members of the congregation immediately began screaming and dropped to the floor as the shooter checked each aisle methodically for more victims.
“Everybody started screaming, yelling. Everyone got down, crawling under wherever they could hide… It was so scary. He was shooting hard,” Joaquin said.
“I was praying to God to save me, because I could see death.”
Twenty six people – including a pregnant mum’s unborn child – were killed when Devin Kelley opened fire on worshippers with an assault rifle.
The attack, which unfolded at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on Sunday, was the fifth-deadliest by a single gunman in US history. The dead ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years. Twenty others were wounded, with 10 still in a critical condition late yesterday, officials said.
Ms Solis was shot in the arm but lived after hiding under a pew and pretending to be dead.
Speaking out from her home, she revealed how Kelley screamed the words, “Everybody dies mother****er” as he fired off hundreds of rounds.
She also described how she could hear little kids crying: “Momma”.
“He was shooting people while he was walking in there,” Rosa told ABC News, while sitting in her house, with a large bandage covering her left arm. “Everybody was so quiet. “You could only hear the sounds of the bullets, and people screaming, and people crying, and ‘Momma, where are you? Momma’, the little kids.”
When asked by the reporter whether there was anywhere for churchgoers to try to escape to, she added: “There was nowhere to go.”
The terrified gran played dead, hiding herself under a pew and staying still. “I had my ears covered up and… oh my gosh,” she recalled.
Kelley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his getaway vehicle after a failed attempt to flee from the scene of the massacre, officials said.
Two handguns were found in the vehicle, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Freeman Martin told a news conference last night.
The gunman’s victims included two young sisters, who died alongside their mum – despite her brave attempts to shield them and their siblings from bullets.
As Kelley began shooting at worshippers, Joann Ward reportedly pushed her nine-year-old daughter, Rihanna Garza, to the floor.
She then covered her five-year-old daughter, Brooke Ward, seven-year-old daughter, Emily Garza, and son, Ryland Ward, also five, with her body. Despite her courageous attempts to shield the youngsters, both she and her little girl Brooke passed away at the scene of the massacre. Emily later died in hospital after one of her major arteries was severed, but Ryland was taken to hospital alive after suffering four gunshot wounds.
A relative has since said he is in a stable condition. Because of her mum’s efforts to save her life, Rihanna also survived the attack while hiding in the church – despite her glasses being shot off.
The traumatised youngster later said: “I didn’t get shot because I was hiding, and momma covered Emily, Ryland & Brooke.”
In a Facebook post, family friend Vonda Greek Smith described how Joann and Brooke died at the scene, while Emily passed away in hospital.
“Just got news from the family & permission to post… Joann Ward & her daughter, little Brooke (5) passed away today on the scene of the Sutherland Springs Church Shooting… Little Emily (7) passed away at the hospital today, too, after a major artery was severed…” she wrote.
She added: “Ryland (5) survived multiple gunshot wounds, went thru extensive surgeries and will have a very long road back to full recovery… “Little Rihanna (9) was there at the shooting but mommy pushed her down when she saw the shooter open fire, so in her words, ‘I didn’t get shot because I was hiding, and momma covered Emily, Ryland & Brooke’…”
She said her family’s hearts and prayers go out to the “poor family”.
“Please, please continue to pray for this tragic event that somehow, some way God would comfort and bring a peace that passes all understanding and show himself real & tangible in each of the family’s lives,” she wrote.
Following the deadly attack, Ryland was found lying among church pews, surrounded by dead bodies and in agonising pain, by his aunt, Leslie Ward.
He had sustained four gunshot wounds to his stomach, groin and arm.
Speaking to the New York Daily News , Leslie explained how she was at her home when she heard gunfire coming from the church.
She immediately rushed to help.
“I found my nephew in the front, in pain,” she said of Ryland.
“It was bad. There was just dead bodies everywhere. It wasn’t what I wanted to see but at the time, I wasn’t worried about it.
“I was worried about finding my family.”
Ryland, who was still awake but not speaking, was carried out of the church moments later by his uncle and Leslie’s husband, Michael Ward.
He was then airlifted to hospital.
A tearful Michael earlier told The Dallas Morning News : “They got him all cut open, from the gunshots”, adding: “I don’t think he’s going to make it.”
Leslie told the Daily News, however, that Ryland was in stable condition.
The children’s desperate dad, Chris Ward, ran to the church without his shoes on after being alerted to the massacre, Michael said.
The father works the night shift and had been at home at the time.
Another shooting victim, Crystal Holcombe, was eight months pregnant. She died in the massacre, along with three of her children, her in-laws and her unborn child.
Pastor Frank Pomeroy’s 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle Pomeroy, was also killed.
Mr Pomeroy and his wife were both out of town in two different states when they heard that the teenager and many of their friends had died.
Mum Sherri Pomeroy told CBS News on Sunday via text message: “My husband and I were ironically out of town in two different states.
“We lost our 14-year-old daughter today and many friends. Neither of us have made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation. “I am at the Charlotte airport trying to get home as soon as I can.”
Police said Kelley stormed into the church dressed in black and wearing a human-skull mask, before opening fire with a Ruger AR-556 semi-automatic rifle.
As he left the church, he was then shot twice – in the leg and torso – by another man, Stephen Willeford, who lived nearby and confronted him with his own rifle.
Kelley managed to flee in a sport utility vehicle as Mr Willeford waved down a passing motorist, Johnnie Langendorff.
The two then gave chase in MrLangendorff’s pickup truck before managing to ‘run him off the road’. Kelley’s vehicle then crashed in a ditch.
Mr Martin later hailed Mr Willeford as “our Texas hero,” crediting him with preventing further carnage in Sunday’s rampage,
Authorities said Kelley had been involved in a domestic dispute of some kind with the parents of his second wife, whom he married in 2014, and had sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law before the shooting. Although his in-laws were known to occasionally attend services at the church Kelley attacked, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said family members were not present on Sunday.
The attack stunned Sutherland Springs, a community of about 400 people. Mr Martin said investigators found hundreds of spent shell casings inside the church after the massacre, as well as 15 empty 30-round ammunition magazines.
Police have yet to officially confirm the names of any victims.