Thousands mourn 8 family members killed in Texas church

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SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas — Three thousand people on Wednesday mourned eight members of a family who were among the more than two dozen killed in a shooting at a small Texas church before the funeral procession headed to a cemetery near the site of the massacre.

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SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas — Three thousand people on Wednesday mourned eight members of a family who were among the more than two dozen killed in a shooting at a small Texas church before the funeral procession headed to a cemetery near the site of the massacre.

Surrounding the multicolored caskets, mourners released light pink and blue balloons at a graveside service for the Holcombe family in rural Wilson County.

Church member and survivor John Holcombe invited the public to attend the funeral of his pregnant wife, Crystal, 36, and three of her children from a previous marriage, Greg Hill, 13, Emily Hill, 11, and Megan Hill, 9; his parents, 60-year-old Bryan and Karla Holcombe, 58; a brother, 36-year-old Marc Holcombe; and Marc’s 18-month-old daughter, Noah.

Fire marshals had to turn hundreds more people away from the services at an events center in Floresville, Texas, about 12 miles from the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, where the Nov. 5 shooting occurred.

In an earlier Facebook post, John Holcombe thanked friends and well-wishers for their support, adding: “Please continue to pray for us.”

The gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, began firing into First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs as Bryan Holcombe, an assistant pastor, ascended to the pulpit. Walking up and down the center aisle, Kelley killed 25 people at the church, including crying babies at point-blank range, according to witness accounts. Authorities put the official toll at 26 because Crystal Holcombe was pregnant.

John Holcombe was managing the church’s audio-visual operations at the back of the building when gunfire erupted. He and Crystal’s 7-year-old daughter, Evelyn, escaped the barrage. Crystal’s eldest child, 14-year-old Philip, stayed home from church services that day.

After his rampage, Kelley fled in a vehicle parked near the church, pursued by a barefoot observer with an AR assault rifle and another man in a pickup. The man with the rifle shot and struck Kelley, but authorities say the gunman died of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Investigators said the attack appeared to stem from a domestic dispute Kelley was having with his mother-in-law, a member of the church who wasn’t present that day. However, among the victims was Lula White, the gunman’s wife’s 71-year-old grandmother.

Kelley had a history of domestic violence: He was given a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force after pleading guilty to assaulting his first wife and stepson.

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Under federal law, anyone convicted of domestic violence cannot purchase a firearm. But the Air Force failed to inform federal law enforcement authorities that Kelley was court-martialed. When he tried to buy guns after his release from a military prison, his conviction was not in the database used to conduct background checks, and the purchases went through.

In addition to those killed, another 20 people were injured in the shooting. Eight survivors remained hospitalized Wednesday at two San Antonio-area hospitals, their conditions ranging from good to critical.

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Thousands mourn 8 family members killed in Texas church

  • Associated Press

    Balloons are released Wednesday at a graveside service for members of the Holcombe family who were killed in the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

  • FILE - This April 16, 2017, photo provided by Torie McCallum shows Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church shooting victims John and Crystal Holcombe in Floresville, Texas. John survived the shooting but his wife Crystal, who was pregnant, was killed along with three of their children Sunday, Nov. 5, at the church. John Holcombe will hold a funeral Wednesday, Nov. 15, for his pregnant wife and three of her children, his parents, a brother and a toddler niece. Holcombe has arranged a public funeral for his family at an event center in Floresville, about 12 miles from the church where the shooting occurred. A procession of hearses will travel from the funeral home to the center. The dead will be buried privately on an unspecified date. (Torie McCallum via AP, File)

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas — Three thousand people on Wednesday mourned eight members of a family who were among the more than two dozen killed in a shooting at a small Texas church before the funeral procession headed to a cemetery near the site of the massacre.

Surrounding the multicolored caskets, mourners released light pink and blue balloons at a graveside service for the Holcombe family in rural Wilson County.

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Church member and survivor John Holcombe invited the public to attend the funeral of his pregnant wife, Crystal, 36, and three of her children from a previous marriage, Greg Hill, 13, Emily Hill, 11, and Megan Hill, 9; his parents, 60-year-old Bryan and Karla Holcombe, 58; a brother, 36-year-old Marc Holcombe; and Marc’s 18-month-old daughter, Noah.

Fire marshals had to turn hundreds more people away from the services at an events center in Floresville, Texas, about 12 miles from the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, where the Nov. 5 shooting occurred.

In an earlier Facebook post, John Holcombe thanked friends and well-wishers for their support, adding: “Please continue to pray for us.”

The gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, began firing into First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs as Bryan Holcombe, an assistant pastor, ascended to the pulpit. Walking up and down the center aisle, Kelley killed 25 people at the church, including crying babies at point-blank range, according to witness accounts. Authorities put the official toll at 26 because Crystal Holcombe was pregnant.

John Holcombe was managing the church’s audio-visual operations at the back of the building when gunfire erupted. He and Crystal’s 7-year-old daughter, Evelyn, escaped the barrage. Crystal’s eldest child, 14-year-old Philip, stayed home from church services that day.

After his rampage, Kelley fled in a vehicle parked near the church, pursued by a barefoot observer with an AR assault rifle and another man in a pickup. The man with the rifle shot and struck Kelley, but authorities say the gunman died of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Investigators said the attack appeared to stem from a domestic dispute Kelley was having with his mother-in-law, a member of the church who wasn’t present that day. However, among the victims was Lula White, the gunman’s wife’s 71-year-old grandmother.

Kelley had a history of domestic violence: He was given a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force after pleading guilty to assaulting his first wife and stepson.

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Under federal law, anyone convicted of domestic violence cannot purchase a firearm. But the Air Force failed to inform federal law enforcement authorities that Kelley was court-martialed. When he tried to buy guns after his release from a military prison, his conviction was not in the database used to conduct background checks, and the purchases went through.

In addition to those killed, another 20 people were injured in the shooting. Eight survivors remained hospitalized Wednesday at two San Antonio-area hospitals, their conditions ranging from good to critical.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.