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Texas Mass Shooting: ‘It isn’t a guns situation, but a mental problem’, Says Trump

An eyewitness to the shootings, who is a Vietnam War vet, told VOA's Mehtap Colak Yilmaz that he had not seen anything like the church massacre "since Vietnam."

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, not pictured, at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, Japan, on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg(VOA)
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White House, November 6, 2017 : A man opened fire with an assault weapon at a church near San Antonio, Texas, Sunday morning, killing 26 worshippers and wounding at least 20.

The victims range from five to 72 years old.

The gunman is also dead and there is no clue so far as to his motive.

Federal investigators from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms have joined local law enforcement officers in tiny Sutherland Springs, Texas, about 50 kilometers from San Antonio.

On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump said the mass shooting “isn’t a guns situation” but is instead “a mental health problem at the highest level. It’s a very, very sad event.” He said the shooter was “a very deranged individual.” The president is monitoring the situation from Japan, the first stop on his five-nation Asian trip.

Earlier, Trump called the shootings “an act of evil” and appealed for prayers. He ordered U.S. flags on federal buildings to be flown at half-staff through Thursday.

“We cannot put into words, the pain and grief we all feel and we cannot begin to imagine the suffering of those who lost the ones they so dearly loved. Our hearts are broken,” the president said.

Texas Governor Gregg Abbott says this is worst mass shooting in Texas history. He said there are “many pieces of a complex puzzle” to put together.

Texas
Members of the Wilson County Sheriff’s office stand inside a taped off area near the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Nov. 5, 2017. VOA

What is known, according to Texas public safety official Freeman Martin, is that the gunman, later identified as Devin P. Kelley, was described as a young white male dressed in black and wearing a bullet-proof vest. He first opened fire with an assault rifle outside the First Baptist Church and continued shooting after going inside.

Freeman said a local resident with his own rifle confronted the shooter, causing the gunman to drop his weapon and flee in his car. The citizen pursued the gunman, joined shortly by police. Freeman said the suspect crashed the car just over the county line and was found dead in the vehicle from a gunshot wound. It is unclear if he killed himself or was shot by the citizen.

Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt says police found multiple weapons in the suspect’s car.

U.S. Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told VOA late Sunday that records show Kelley was discharged from the Air Force about three years ago: “Records checks confirm Devin P. Kelley was previously a USAF member, who served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman AFB, NM, from 2010 until his discharge in 2014. Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 for two counts of Article 128 UCMJ ((EDS: Uniform code of Military Justice)) — assault on his spouse and assault on their child. Kelley received a Bad Conduct Discharge, confinement for twelve months and a reduction to the grade of E-1.”

ALSO READ 26 people killed as a Shooter opens fire in a Church in Texas

Two of the victims were killed outside the church. The rest were shot inside.

An eyewitness to the shootings, who is a Vietnam War vet, told VOA’s Mehtap Colak Yilmaz that he had not seen anything like the church massacre “since Vietnam.”

Marie Ann Montgomery, the church’s Sunday school director, told VOA’s Yilmaz that people in the congregation knew Kelley and some of the suspect’s family members were among the victims. Montgomery stopped short, however, of saying the suspect deliberately targeted his family.

While none of the victims have been publicly identified, First Baptist Church Pastor Frank Pomeroy told U.S. news networks that his 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle Renee Pomeroy, is among the deceased.

Pomeroy was in Oklahoma at the time of the shooting. He told ABC News he was on his way back to Sutherland Springs.

Sutherland Springs, Texas on the map. VOA

​He said all of the people killed Sunday were close friends. Pomeroy also said he wants the world to know his daughter “was one very beautiful special child.”

Sheriff Tackitt says the church posts its weekly services on YouTube and that the massacre was likely caught on camera. The FBI says it believes only one gunman was involved.

Sunday’s Texas shooting comes just weeks after October’s mass killing in Las Vegas. Stephen Paddock opened fire on a country music show there, killing 58 and wounding about 500. Paddock shot from his 32nd floor hotel room and killed himself as police moved in. Investigators in the Las Vegas shooting are still working to confirm a motive. (VOA)

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Are Mass Shootings The New Normal In The U.S?

Parents and teachers now have to have these conversations with kids who are in school.

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Mass shooting
Video: Orange Rallies in US Honors Victims of Gun Violence. Pixabay

Caila Sanford rushed to donate blood as she wiped tears from her eyes. She started reliving a nightmare after hearing about the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Sanford, 22, survived the mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas just a year ago, where a gunman killed 58 people.

“This really hits home for me. I can imagine what these people are going through. I’ve been to this bar many, many times. I love college nights,” Sanders said.

It was college night at the Borderline when a gunman entered and opened fire, killing 12 people and then himself.

The shooter was identified as Ian David Long, 28, a former military machine gunner. He apparently killed himself after Wednesday’s attack.

Mass shooting
Caila Sanford survived the mass shooting during a Las Vegas concert last year. She never expected there would be a mass shooting so close to her home in California. She’s now afraid of going to places with a lot of people. VOA

It was the second U.S. mass shooting to make recent headlines. An attack Oct. 27 at a Pittsburgh synagogue killed 11 people.

Researchers at the Gun Violence Archive said there has been a mass shooting in the United States nearly every day this year. The group defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are wounded or killed by gunfire, not including the shooter.

The frequency of mass shootings leaves some Americans numb.

“It doesn’t get easier to hear, but it gets more normalized. It’s desensitized completely,” Sanford said, adding, “I think twice about going anywhere, honestly. Not just here — the grocery store, the mall.”

Mass shooting
A bouquet left by mourners lies near the site of Wednesday’s mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif. VOA

 

Parents worry that not even schools are safe. In May, a mass shooting at a school in Santa Fe, Texas, left 10 dead.

“We are living in a state of fear within our own country, within our own borders, amongst ourselves,” said Grace Fisher, a mother of three young children.

Mass shooting
Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Garo Kuredjian, left, embraces chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team as they pray near the site of Wednesday’s mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Nov. 9, 2018. Investigators continue to work to figure out why an ex-Marine opened fire Wednesday evening inside a Southern California country music bar, killing multiple people. VOA

Fisher went to the scene of the most recent shooting in Thousand Oaks with a sign that said, “Moms demand action for gun sense in America.”

She said U.S. society must find better ways to prevent such carnage.

Mass shooting
Grace Fisher is a mom who is fearful for her three children. She said something needs to change with regard to gun regulations. She lives in a neighborhood near Thousand Oaks, site of the most recent U.S. mass shooting. VOA

“I think that the problem in this country is multifaceted. It’s going to take a multifaceted approach to solve this problem, but to say that guns are not the problem is a total cop-out,” Fisher said.

Also Read: Video: Orange Rallies in US Honor Victims of Gun Violence

In addition to worrying about a test in school, students also have to think about an exit plan if they experience an active-shooter situation.

“Parents and teachers now have to have these conversations with kids who are in school. ‘What are you going to do if this happens? What is your plan? Where are you going to go?’ And they shouldn’t have to worry about that,” Sanford said. (VOA)