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Man opens fire in Texas church, killing more than 20 people

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Officers gather in front of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs
Law enforcement officers gather in front of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs after a fatal shooting on Sunday.
Darren Abate | AP

Updated: 7:05 p.m. | Posted: 1:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the deadly church shooting in Texas is an "act of evil."

Trump is in Tokyo on the first leg of a visit to Asia. He says he has spoken with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the state has the administration's "full support."

Trump says he will continue to follow developments closely while he is traveling through Asia.

The president says the "act of evil" occurred as the victims and families were in their place of "sacred worship."

Texas authorities say 26 people were killed and about 20 others were wounded Sunday after a man open fire inside First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs southeast of San Antonio.

Department of Public Safety regional director Freeman Martin says the alleged shooter was dressed in black, wearing tactical gear and a ballistic vest when he arrived at a neighboring gas station around 11:20 a.m.

He crossed the street to the church, left his vehicle and started firing a Ruger AR assault-type rifle at the church. Then he entered the church and fired.

As he left the church, the shooter met an unidentified area resident with his own rifle who pursued him. The suspect was found dead in his vehicle near the border between Wilson and Guadalupe counties.

Martin says it's unclear if he died of a self-inflected wound or was shot by the resident.

Authorities haven't announced the name of the suspect, only describing him as a white male in his 20s.

Two officials who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity identified the attacker as Devin Kelley.

Martin said 23 of the people found dead in a shooting at a Baptist church were found inside the building, two others were outside and one person was transported but died later. He said the ages of those killed ranged from 5 to 72.

He told a news conference that about 20 other people were injured in the attack.

The first report of the shooting was at about 11:20 a.m., or about 20 minutes after the church website says the Sunday worship was scheduled to start.

Gov. Greg Abbott said during a news conference Sunday that it was the deadliest mass shooting in the state's history.

The wife of the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs says the couple's 14-year-old daughter was among those killed in a mass shooting at the church.

Sherri Pomeroy, wife of Pastor Frank Pomeroy, said in a text message that she lost her daughter "and many friends" in the Sunday shooting. The text came in response to an interview request sent by The Associated Press to a phone number linked in online records to Frank Pomeroy.

Sherri Pomeroy says both she and her husband were out of town and trying to get back to Sutherland Springs, outside of San Antonio.

Federal law enforcement swarmed the scene to offer assistance, including ATF investigators and members of the FBI's evidence collection team.

Sutherland Springs is in a rural corner of South Texas where communities are small and tight-knit. 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."

Zaffirini said she had called several county and local officials but not been able to get through and didn't have any firm details.

The church is a white, wood-framed building with a double-door at the entrance and a Texas flag on a pole at the front area, according to its website, which was down shortly after the shooting. The website says the church schedule was for a fellowship breakfast on Sunday mornings, followed by Sunday School. A morning worship service was scheduled for 11 a.m. The first news reports of the shooting were between noon and 12:30 p.m.

The church has posted videos of its Sunday services on a YouTube channel, raising the possibility that the shooting was captured on video.

In the most recent service, posted Oct. 29, Pastor Frank Pomeroy began by speaking in front of a stage with two guitarists and a singer. A few children can be seen moving around and climbing onto the pews. Most people, including Pomeroy, were in jeans.

Pomeroy parked a motorcycle in front of his lectern and used it as a metaphor in his sermon for having faith in forces that can't be seen, whether it was gravity or God.

"I don't look at the moment, I look at where I'm going and look at what's out there ahead of me," Pomeroy said. "I'm choosing to trust in the centripetal forces and the things of God he's put around me."