The world has heard this story before: A gunman barges into a Christian church and turns his weapon on the congregants. Some he sprays with gunfire; others he approaches and ends their life with a shot to the head.
Such terrorism has been documented before, most often in the Middle East and Africa where Islamists hate those who are not of their faith and believe they have a right to destroy them.
But this was in Texas, long the buckle to America’s Bible Belt, with a countryside blanketed with churches.
Sunday, suspect Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, allegedly walked into First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and opened fire on a congregation where his former in-laws worshiped.
The mass shooting was neither racially nor religiously motivated, authorities said at a news conference Monday morning, noting there was a “domestic situation” within the suspect’s family.
The gunman’s mother-in-law had received threatening texts from her son-in-law, according to authorities.
Twenty-six people died and another 20 were injured. The attacker was confronted by an armed neighbor outside the church and shot, then chased into a nearby county, where he ran his vehicle off the road.
He was found dead inside the vehicle, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.
Authorities blamed a mental-health issue for the disaster in the town of 400, as they continued to investigate Kelley’s background.
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But Wall Street Journal columnist Bill McGurn suggested there may never be an adequate explanation.
“There is evil in the world and it does take hold of some people’s hearts,” he said.
The London Daily Mail had a bullet point list of Kelley’s history, including that he was described by former classmates as an “outcast,” “creepy” and “weird.”
He also talked “about how people who believe in God were stupid.” Kelley was court-martialed by the U.S. military in 2014 for assaulting his then-wife and child.
Video: Pastor Pomeroy of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, and wife, Sherri speak following the mass shooting that claimed nearly all of their congregation, including their daughter, Annabelle:
Kelley’s former classmate Reid Mosis, 26, described him as “always a bit of a loner.”
“I know his parents had him on heavy doses of meds in middle school,” Mosis said. “A lot of friends that knew him said he was too sick in the head to deal with by senior year of high school.”
Classmate Nina Rosa Nava wrote on Facebook that Kelley “preached atheism” on social media, reported Zero Hedge.
“He was always talking about how people who believe in God were stupid and trying to preach his atheism,” Nava wrote.
Another former classmate, Christopher Leo Longoria, replied: “I removed him off FB for those same reasons! He was being super nagtive (sic) all the timd (sic).”
What was emerging from the details was a picture of a man who hated religion, hated Christians specifically, was unwilling or unable to follow society’s rules and believed he had the right to use violence to fulfill his wishes.
There are reports Kelley tried to bribe underage girls to date him.
Brittany Adcock, 22, told the New York Post that Kelley dated her for two months around 2009 when he was 18 and she was just 13.
“At the time I didn’t think much into it, being so young, but now I realize that there’s something off about someone who is 18 with someone who is 13,” she said.
“One time he told me I should move in with him and his wife and that he would take care of me as long as I walked around topless,” Adcock said. “Not long after, his wife messaged me and asked why I’m talking to her husband and I told her what he was saying and sent her screenshots and she then apologized and then I was blocked from speaking to her.”
Possibly he simply was deranged.
The Mail reported: “Patrick Boyce, who attended New Braunfels High School with the killer, told DailyMail.com: ‘He had a kid or two, fairly normal, but kinda quiet and lately seemed depressed. He was the first atheist I met. He went Air Force after high school, got discharged but I don’t know why.'”
Nina Rose Nava, who went to school with the gunman, wrote on Facebook: ‘In (sic) in complete shock! I legit just deleted him off my fb cause I couldn’t stand his post. He was always talking about how people who believe in God we’re stupid and trying to preach his atheism.”
The report continued: “Michael Goff added: ‘He was weird but never that damn weird, always posting his atheist sh** like Nina wrote, but damn he always posted pics of him and his baby – crazy.'”
Kevin Jordan, who lives across the street from the church, told ABC News he saw the suspect “shooting as he’s walking towards the church.”
“When I was trying to run back inside my house … he saw me, and he took a shot off in my direction, and it went through the front window of my house. And my two-year-old son … he was standing in the window, two feet from where it hit,” Jordan told ABC. “It almost hit him.
“I grabbed my son and grabbed my wife, and we barricaded ourselves in the bathroom and I called 9-1-1,” Jordan added.
Jordan then saw his friend and neighbor, Stephen Willeford, 55, confront the suspect with his own gun.
Kelley was shot by Willeford, who was across the street from the church and heard the disturbance, then took off from the church in an SUV, a town resident told the Mail.
Johnnie Langendorff, who had witnessed the confrontation, refused to let the shooter get away. Both he and Willeford, a local plumber, jumped in his truck and gave chase.
Following a chase at speeds nearing 100 mph, the shooter ran his car off the road, and when people approached his vehicle, he was dead.
Kelley had been court-martialed by the Air Force in 2012 and discharged two years later.
Spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told the Daily Mail that Kelley faced one count of assault on his spouse and another count of assault on their child. He received a bad conduct discharge, 12 months’ confinement and a reduction in rank.
Reports said he later was married to Danielle Shields, who previously was a teacher at the church, and his mother-in-law, Michelle Shields, apparently attended there.
The church is about 30 miles from San Antonio.
A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety said that of the 20 injured, 10 remained in critical condition, meaning the death toll could rise.
Authorities described only generally a “domestic situation” involving Kelley and his in-laws.
The victims ranged from age 5 to 72. Their names will be released after all next-of-kin are notified.
Ed Davis, a former Boston police commissioner, pinpointed the issue: “This has something to do with mental health problems.”
CBS reported Kelley served in logistics in New Mexico while in the Air Force.
He was booted with a bad conduct discharge and confined for 12 months after being charged with two counts of assault on his then-wife and child.
Authorities said he didn’t appear to be linked to any terrorist organization.
Kelley has posted on Facebook an image of a gun, describing it as “She’s a bad b–ch.”
President Trump described the 26-year-old as “deranged.”
The Daily Beast said the image that was emerging of the attacker was “a disturbing picture.”
Authorities say Kelley had turned up ready for combat on Sunday morning. He had been seen at a gas station nearby, just before going to the church, “dressed in all black, tactical gear, wearing a ballistics belt.”
The Mail reported a former friend wrote: “It’s scary to know this psychopath has been in my house. I can’t believe I was friends with this guy and I literally would stay the night at his place when we were kids.”
The testimony continued: “I ended up distancing myself from him in high school after he got in an argument with me in school and he tried punching me several times. Dude was crazy man.”
It apparently is the worst shooting at a place of worship in American history and the deadliest in Texas state history.
Read the stunning account of how a Christian missionary at a South African worship service reacted when terrorists attacked. He shot back! The full details in book, and now movie, formats. Get “Shooting Back,” the bundle, now!