Monday 6 November 2017 – Sutherland Springs mass shooting – Updates & Analysis

CaptureThe suspect behind yesterday’s mass shooting at the Sutherland Springs Free Baptist Church in Texas has been un-officially identified by anonymous law enforcement sources as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley (pictured).  His identity had already been revealed by multiple media sources.  Mr Kelley was found dead in his car after fleeing from the scene of the attack, being chased by at least two local residents – one of whom fired at him and is said to have wounded him. It is unclear whether this was the cause of his death, or whether he took his own life. Some reports say that he was shot at least once by the local man, Stephen Willieford, but did indeed kill himself. Sheriff Tackett Jr. said:

“There was some gunfire exchanged, I believe, on the roadway also, and then [the shooter’s vehicle] wrecked out. At this time we believe that he had a self-inflicted gunshot wound, after he wrecked out.”

The White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement from Japan, where she is accompanying President Trump’s Asian tour.  It said:

“The President has been briefed several times and is continuing to receive regular updates on the tragic shooting in Texas.

The President spoke with Governor [Greg] Abbott earlier this morning. We will keep you posted as we can share more details.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the friends and families affected. May God comfort them all in this time of tragedy.

The President reacted by saying that the shooting wasn’t “a gun situation,” but was a mental health problem, thus attempting to distract away from any calls for more gun control.  You can read more about this in my earlier post today on the shooting.

State Senator for Texas Judith Zaffrini, a Democrat whose district includes Sutherland Springs, said: “We’re shocked. Shocked and dismayed. It’s especially shocking when it’s such a small, serine area. These rural areas, they are so beautiful and so loving.”

facebookDetails of the weapons used by the attacker have been released.  He used a Ranger AR rifle and also carried a handgun, according to Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt, Jr.  Other weapons were discovered in the vehicle in which he was found dead.  Investigators have said that they are looking at social media posts by the suspect, including one made in the days before the attack which shows an AR-15 rifle with the capttion: “She’s a bad bitch.”  The Ranger-556 used by the suspect is a variant of the AR-15 and is known to be highly customisable.  The rifle shown in the suspect’s Facebook post retails for around $849.  It is magazine fed, gas-operated and semi-automatic and is based on the military M-16 rifle, but does not have automatic fire modes meaning that each pull of the trigger fires a single shot. Modifications can be made to increase its fire-rate, using  a bump-stock device which was also used by Stephen Paddock in the mass shooting in Las Vegas last month.  It is not yet known if the rifle in this latest shooting was modified.

In Texas an AR-15 can be bought without a permit or a waiting period. It would not need to be registered and there are no limits on the number of ammunition rounds you can load into it.  Furthermore, Texans can openly carry firearms without a permit.  While a licence is required to own a handgun, one is not for rifles.  The suspect is said to have been denied a licence in the state, probably because of past convictions and known violence against his wife and child for which he served a year in a military prison before being kicked out of the army. Governor Greg Abbott wants to know how he still got a gun.  With Texas’s lax gun control laws this seems a stupid question. He was speaking to CNN:

“So how was it that he was able to get a gun? By all the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun. So how did this happen?”

Governor Abbot’s surprise seems a bit hypocritical considering his previous views on gun control and his protestations that Texans weren’t buying enough guns! The suspect bought the AR rifle in San Antonio in April 2016 and when filling out background paperwork, he lied and said that he didn’t have a disqualifying criminal history as well as giving a false address.  The fact that these lies weren’t caught out demonstrates the laxness of the gun control laws in Texas.


The story of a five-year-old boy who was found alive and clinging to a church pew next to his dead mother and sisters is being widely reported.  The boy, Ryland Ward, was found by his aunt shortly after the shooting.  The boy’s mother Joanna Ward and his sisters Brooke Ward, 5 and Emily Garza, 7 were killed in front of him.   Despite being shot four times in his stomach, groin and arm, Ryland survived and is now in a stable condition in a San Antonio hospital.  His other sister, 9-year-old Rihanna also survived, despite a bullet dislodging her glasses.  Their aunt, Leslie Ward, said:

“I found my nephew in the front, in pain. 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.”


Reports say that the suspect chose the First Baptist church as it was the church his mother-in-law worshipped at, although she wasn’t at the church at the time of the attack. Some reports suggested that he had had an argument with his mother-in-law and that this may have been a motive for the attack.  According to Freeman Martin, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, the suspect had a “domestic situation” with his extended family and had sent “threatening” text messages to his mother-in-law.  Mr Martin said:

“There was a domestic situation going on within the family and the in-laws. The mother-in-law attended the church. We know he sent threatening […] that she had received threatening text messages from him.”

Mr Martin believes that the shooting was motivated by this domestic situation and was not racially or religiously motivated. This view wasn’t supported by many Trump supporters online who immediately jumped to the conclusion that the shooter was black, Muslim or both.  Once they discovered the truth many resorted to the pathetic and insulting “false flag”  theories that seem to surface after every shooting and terrorist attack.  Others chose to argue it was a distraction from the real story – the corruption of Hillary Clinton!

Dave Ivey, the suspect’s uncle expressed shock at what his nephew has done, speaking to NBC News:

“I never in a million years could of believed Devin could be capable of this kind of thing. I am numb. My family will suffer because of his coward actions. [..] I am so sorry for the victims in Texas.”

Not everyone was so surprised.  Katy Landry, a former girlfriend of the shooter said “He was very sick in the head.” She described him as having habitually stalked and harassed her and other girlfriends after their breakups.

“Years after dating me he would try to bribe me to hang out with him. He ended up assaulting me. He would stalk me by repeatedly calling me — even prank calling me, saying really weird stuff.”

Governor Abbott agrees that the act of violence was not random and that the suspect had a connection with the church.  He said that investigators were looking into this, adding:  “it’s very important that law enforcement have the ability […] to tie the loose ends of this investigation up.” Several members of the suspect’s family are thought to have worshipped at the church.  Sheriff Tackett Jr. told CNN: “We know that his ex-in-laws or in-laws came to church here from time to time. They were not here yesterday.” Sheriff Tackett Jr. also said: “I heard that (the in-laws) attended church from time to time. Not on a regular basis.”


While the death toll remains at 26, officials have warned that at least 10 of those in hospital are in a critical condition.  The age range of those who died has been updated from my earlier post and now ranges from 18 months to 77 years-old

Sources & Further Reading: