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26 dead in largest mass shooting in Texas history

A gunman dressed all in black, wearing a ballistics vest and armed with a assault rifle, went on a shooting rampage at a South Texas church Sunday morning. The shooting left 26 people dead, the deadliest in his state’s history.

At a press conference Sunday night, law enforcement officials said the gunman who began his rampage outside and then continued shooting inside First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs was confronted by a local citizen as he was leaving. Freeman Martin, regional director of Texas Department of Public Safety, said the confrontation caused the shooter to jump into his vehicle and drop his rifle. The suspect was found dead later, but it is unknown if he was killed by someone or killed himself.

“This will be a long, suffering mourning for those in pain,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. “We ask for God’s comfort, for God’s guidance and God’s healing for all those who are suffering.”

President Donald Trump, who is just beginning his 13-day Asia trip, tweeted his condolences from Japan. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president called Abbott and was being briefed on the situation.

Martin said the ages of the victims ranged from 5 years old to 72. He added that an unknown number of people were able to escape the church unharmed, but that many people sustained injuries and remain hospitalized.

One of the victims, according to media reports, was the daughter of First Baptist’s pastor. The pastor and his wife were not at the church, located 30 miles from San Antonio.

“May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas,” the president wrote on Twitter. “The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn and fellow Texas Sen. Ted Cruz also expressed their sympathies on Twitter

“Keeping all harmed in Sutherland Springs in our prayers and grateful for our brave first responders on the scene,” Cruz wrote.

“Please say a prayer for First Baptist congregation, first responders & the community there,” Cornyn added.

The state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, pointed out on CNN that shooting occurred eight years to the day of the Nov. 9, 2009, shooting at Fort Hood where U.S. Army major Nidal Hasan, a U.S. Army major, fatally shot 13 people and injured more than 30 others.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez and other political figures also expressed their condolences.

A spokeswoman said the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was sending special agents from field offices in Houston and San Antonio to the site.

Sutherland Springs is in a rural corner of South Texas. The area is known for its annual peanut festival in nearby Floresville, which was most recently held last month.

“We’re shocked. Shocked and dismayed,” said state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Laredo Democrat whose district includes Sutherland Springs. “It’s especially shocking when it’s such a small, serene area. These rural areas, they are so beautiful and so loving.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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