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Hero Describes Pursuit of Texas Church Shooter

Alleged gunman posted rifle picture on Facebook
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2017 5:37 AM CST
Updated Nov 6, 2017 6:03 AM CST
Hero Describes Pursuit of Texas Church Shooter
Johnny Langendorff, who said he pursued Kelley, waits to be picked up from the scene where the suspect was found dead near the intersection of FM 539 and Sandy Elm Road in Guadalupe County, Texas, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017.   (William Luther/The San Antonio Express-News via AP)

(Newser) – Amid the horror of the Sutherland Springs church shooting, two men have emerged as heroes. One of them, a rifle-wielding man who engaged the gunman outside the Texas church, has not yet been identified. The other, motorist Johnnie Langendorff, says he pursued gunman Devin Kelley after he witnessed the gunfight Sunday morning and the man who exchanged fire with Kelley told him what had happened. He says the gunman went off the road after an 11-mile chase and did not emerge from the vehicle afterward. Police say he was found dead in the vehicle, though it's not clear whether he was fatally shot by the armed citizen. Langendorff says he didn't hesitate to pursue the gunman. "It's just one of those things," he said, per People. "Act now, ask questions later kinda deal." In other developments:

  • No way out. Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr. tells the AP that there would have been no way for parishioners to escape after Kelley, dressed in black tactical-type gear, entered the church and began walking down the central aisle, shooting. The sheriff says he saw terrible scenes inside. "It's unbelievable to see children, men and women, laying there. Defenseless people," he says. "I guess it was seeing the children that were killed. It's one thing to see an adult, but to see a 5-year-old ..." Authorities say two bodies were found outside the church and 23 inside. Another victim died after being hospitalized. More than 20 others were injured.

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  • Search for explosives. The San Antonio Express-News reports that police are searching for explosives at Kelley's home. The 26-year-old reportedly lived just outside New Braunfels, a San Antonio suburb around 40 miles away from Sutherland Springs.
  • Disturbing Facebook post. The Daily Beast reports that days before the shooting, Kelley posted a photo of an AR-15 style assault rifle on Facebook with the caption, "She's a bad bitch." It's not clear whether that was the same rifle used in the shooting, which authorities say was a Ruger AR-15 variant. Authorities say it is too early to discuss a possible motive, or why Kelley might have targeted the church.
  • "This is going to happen again." Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tells Fox News that such attacks are bound to happen again. He says that churches and similar institutions should either hire professional security or make sure parishioners are armed, so that if a gunman attacks, he can be "taken out before he has the opportunity to kill very many people."

  • Intensifying gunfire. Neighbor Ryan Albers tells the AP that he had heard gunfire from Kelley's property growing more intense in recent days. "It was definitely not just a shotgun or someone hunting," he says. "It was someone using automatic weapon fire."
  • Second marriage. Records show that Kelley was married in 2014, the New York Times reports. A previous marriage ended in 2012, the same year he faced a court-martial for assaulting that wife and child. He served a year in confinement before a bad-conduct discharge from the Air Force.
  • Generations wiped out. The shooting in the tight-knit community took a horrific toll on some families. Joe and Claryce Holcombe tell the Washington Post that they lost children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—a total of eight family members, the youngest just a year old.

  • How could Kelley buy a weapon? ABC reports that one of the unanswered questions is how Kelley could buy a weapon despite a domestic violence conviction. Investigators are looking into whether there were exceptions in the case that allowed him to buy the assault rifle, which a law enforcement source say was purchased at a sporting goods store last year.
  • Possible ties to the church. The Houston Chronicle reports that Kelley was not a member of the church, though law enforcement officials say he may have had connections to it through family members. Records show that he had only faced minor traffic offenses in recent year. He was licensed by the state as a security guard and records show he worked at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort in New Braunfels
(Read more Devin Kelley stories.)

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