At least 26 people were killed after a gunman opened fire at a church during Sunday services in Sutherland Springs in the U.S. state of Texas, Governor Greg Abbott said on Sunday.
“Unfortunately I’m sad to tell you that at this moment of time there are 26 lives that have been lost. We don’t know that number will rise or not,” Abbott said.
The shooting attack in the church was the deadliest mass shooting in the state’s history, he added.
Most of the victims, ranging in age from 5 to 72 years old, have not been identified although the deceased included the 14-year-old daughter of pastor Frank Pomeroy, the church leader told the press.
The shooting happened at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, approximately 35 km southeast of San Antonio.
A man walked into the church at around 11:30 a.m. (1730 GMT) on Sunday and opened fire at the crowd of people.
As he left the church, a local resident grabbed his rifle and engaged with the suspect, Texas public safety officer Freeman Martin said.
The car of the suspect was found nearby later with the suspect dead inside. It remains unclear if the suspect was self-inflicted a gunshot wound or was shot with gunfire by local residents who engaged him.
“The suspect has not been completely identified. He was believed to be a young white male, maybe in his early 20s,” Martin said, adding that investigation has been going on with the aid of the FBI and other departments.
While police have surrounded the area, heart-wrenching relatives and neighbors stood outside awaiting news from inside the church.
Some 20 injured people were being treated at local hospitals, authorities said.
The Wilson County News earlier quoted Sheriff Joe Tackitt as reporting that there have been “multiple casualties and fatalities.”
“While the details of this horrific act are still under investigation, (my wife) Cecilia and I want to send our sincerest thoughts and prayers to all those who have been affected by this evil act,” Governor Abbott said in a statement following the shooting.
“I want to thank law enforcement for their response and ask that all Texans pray for the Sutherland Springs community during this time of morning and loss,” the statement said.
U.S. President Donald Trump who is in Tokyo on a 12-day Asian tour denounced the “horrific shooting.”
“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,” he tweeted.
“You cannot put into words the pain and grief we all feel” for the victims,” the U.S. president said, pledging his administration’s “full support” for the investigation.
Sutherland Springs is an unincorporated community located on the old Spanish land grant of Manuel Tarin in northern Wilson County. According to the Handbook of Texas, the population was 362 in 2000.