Around 24 people have died in a shooting attack on a rural church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, according to Albert Gamez Jr., a Wilson County commissioner. In an interview with MSNBC, he estimated that 20 to 24 others have been injured.
The attack comes in the wake of another church shooting outside of Nashville, Tennessee, in September, where a 25-year-old man allegedly opened fire on Burnette Chapel Church of Christ at the end of its Sunday service, killing one woman and injuring seven others. Taken together with the deadly attacks in Las Vegas and New York City, the shooting at First Baptist Church in Texas is part of a disorienting wave of mass violence this fall.
Details of the Texas shooting are still emerging, but initial reports suggest the attack resulted in a large number of deaths. Gamez told MSNBC that “there was one shooter who came in and started shooting inside that little church.” While the count of injuries and deaths has not been confirmed, he said, “there are a lot of fatalities.” KSAT 12, a local news station, reported that both the FBI and the Texas Rangers are on the scene, and that police have confirmed the shooter’s death.
Shootings at houses of worship can be particularly disorienting for both parishioners and community members—attacking during prayer is a way of hitting people at a moment of vulnerability, and exploiting the openness on which many communities pride themselves.
“Churches, you don’t lock the doors,” Joey Spann, minister of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, told The Tennessean after the shooting attack on his church. “But we may have to. It’s sad.”
In 2015, when Dylann Roof opened fire in the Mother Emanuel A.M.E Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the victims felt their welcome of a stranger had been rewarded with violence. “Every night somebody else gets killed in this country, and I have to relive that pain,” Sharon Risher, the daughter of Ethel Lance, one of the people who died, told Time. “I know what these people are going through.” In 2012, a gunman murdered six people worshipping at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. “That day shattered my world,” Prabhjot Singh Rathor, the young son of one of the victims, recently told The Washington Post.
President Trump tweeted his support for the church’s community shortly after the attacks, saying that he is “monitoring the situation from Japan.”
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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 5, 2017
Texas Governor Greg Abbott also promised more details to come, calling the shooting an “evil act.”
Our prayers are with all who were harmed by this evil act. Our thanks to law enforcement for their response. More details from DPS soon. https://t.co/KMCRmOPkiM
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) November 5, 2017
The identity of the shooter and the motive in the Texas attack remain unknown. But the fall has seen mass killings at music concerts and on American city sidewalks—and now multiple churches have joined that list.
This story will be updated.