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27 killed in US church shooting, gunman identified (Lead)

Washington, Nov 6 (IANS) A single shooter walked into an US church in Texas and opened fire, leaving at least 26 worshippers dead and over two dozens injured, media reports said.

The man responsible for the killing on Sunday has been identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, New York Times said.

Kelley, 26, walked into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs just before noon and began firing, authorities said.

One of the victims shot, was a two-year-old child. Police told Channel KSAT12 that Kelley was dead. However, they did not specify the cause, Efe news reported.

Sutherland Springs, with a population of about 400, is some 45 km southeast of San Antonio.

A heavy police presence, including Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)personnel, was reported at the crime scene.

The shooting took place during the Sunday Mass. The 14-year-old daughter of the county pastor was also killed, the NYT report said.

County Commissioner Wilson Albert Gamez Jr. has confirmed the number of casualties. He also expressed fear that the number might rise.

Kelley was married and a resident of New Braunfels, a suburb of San Antonio, the Daily Beast reported.

Freeman Martin of the Texas Department of Public Safety gave a brief timeline of events, the Guardian reported.

At around 11.20 a.m. the suspect (initially described as a white male in his early 20s), was seen at a gas station over the road from the church.

He was dressed all in black in tactical-style clothes including a ballistic vest.

He crossed the road and as he approached the church he began shooting, carrying on the firing as he entered the place of worship itself.

After the carnage, as he was leaving the church, he was engaged by a resident carrying a rifle. The shooter dropped his own weapon, a Ruger assault rifle, and fled.

He was pursued by police and just as he reached Guadalupe County his vehicle veered off the road. He was found in the car dead, it is not known whether by his own hand or having been shot by a local resident.

The church regularly posts its weekly services to its Youtube page, and investigators are now searching for video that could shed more light on what happened.

The scale of the shooting and its location has presented President Donald Trump with a renewed gun dilemma just as he embarked on a five-country tour in Asia.

In his opening response to the massacre, Trump tweeted: “May God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI and law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan.”

The violence comes just a month after the US’s worst-ever mass shooting – when Stephen Paddock opened fire on an outdoor Las Vegas concert on October 1, killing 58 and injuring hundreds.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, who had proposed stricter gun control, said: “We grieve with all the families in Sutherland Springs harmed by this act of hatred. We’ll stand with the survivors as they recover. May God also grant all of us the wisdom to ask what concrete steps we can take to reduce the violence and weaponry in our midst.”

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