Breaking News Emails
Two survivors of the worst mass murder in Texas history recalled on Tuesday how a gunman yelled "everybody's going to die" and then began spraying bullets inside their Baptist church while they hid in terror beneath a pew.
Rosanne Solis, who was struck in the shoulder by one of the estimated 450 shots that police said Devin Patrick Kelley fired Sunday at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, said she could see the executioner's shoes as he marched through the sanctuary firing at will.
"I did not want to move," Solis, a grandmother of four told Univision news. "If I spoke or if I moved he was going to kill me because he was standing there killing everyone who moved. I played dead and it saved my life."
Sharing her terror and hiding place was her husband Joaquín Ramírez, who said he managed to call 911 as they clung to each other beneath the pew. He suffered a minor shrapnel injury.
"I was holding her under the pew," Ramirez recalled to the station. "I covered her and she said, 'Leave me, save your life.' And I said to God, 'My God, save us because I do not want to die.'"
All around them, he said, people were "crying and screaming and asking for help."
Kelley died later of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was wounded in a gun battle outside the church with a man identified in news reports as Stephen Willeford — and after a wild car chase that ended some 11 miles north of town when he drove his SUV into a ditch.
Some 20 worshippers were wounded in the massacre, and 10 remain in critical condition, authorities said.
Solis said she and her husband were at the 11 a.m. service on Sunday when she heard the first shots ring out and then a man screaming for everyone to get down. She said the gunman was firing bullets "like a crazy man" and didn't seem to care who he hit.
"I just didn't want to die that day," Solis told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth, choking back tears. "I wanted to see my grandchildren."
Solis told Univision the gunman appeared to be targeting the children.
"It was like he had a hatred for the children," she said.
Ramirez, who began weeping, agreed.
"When they yelled he would riddle them [with bullets] like an animal," he said.
At one point the shooting "stopped and everybody thought it was going to be OK, and then he started again," Solis told the NBC affiliate.
Solis said she could smell gunpowder and saw bullets hitting the floor in front of her. She said after the shooting stopped, nobody moved or said a word for what seemed like 15 minutes.
Eventually, Solis said, her sister showed up at the church and drove her to a nearby hospital. Recovering after shoulder surgery, Solis said she doesn’t see herself returning to the church.
“I don't blame the Lord,” she said. “I will always have my faith. But I won’t go to that church no more. I’m scared. From here on, I am going to study at home.”
Still rattled by her brush with death, Solis said "I don’t know what to think anymore."
"This world is full of so much anger," she said.
Ramirez and Solis said they remembered the shooter because he'd come to the church about six months ago with a woman and children but did not enter the sanctuary.
"I saw him with my own eyes," Ramirez said. "He was outside."
This time, police said, Kelley was dressed in black tactical gear and armed with a semi-automatic Ruger AR-556 assault-type rifle when he entered the church. Police later found a Glock and a Ruger handgun inside the Ford Expedition he had been driving.
Investigators say it appears Kelley was involved in an intra-family feud involving his mother-in-law and had "a purpose and a mission" when he launched the attack.
His cellphone is now being inspected by the FBI in Quantico, Virginia. FBI Special Agent Christopher Combs said they are having a difficult time accessing the password protected device.
"I am not going to describe what kind of phone it is," Combs said at a briefing. "I don't want to let every bad guy know what phone to buy."
Combs added that Kelley, who was 26 and lived in New Braunfels, Texas, was not in any FBI database prior to Sunday's massacre in the small town some 45 southeast of San Antonio.
Kelley's mother-in-law from his most recent marriage in 2014 may have been his chief target, authorities have said. But she wasn't at the church when he started shooting.
The woman, who lives in Sutherland Springs, told authorities she had received threatening texts from Kelley.
Meanwhile, Democratic and Republican lawmakers have demanded an investigation into why the Air Force failed to enter Kelley's court martial for domestic violence into a national database that would have barred him from buying the weapons he used in the massacre.
"Twenty-six wonderful people might be alive today if the law had been followed by the United State military and this heinous crime committed by the Texas shooter, while he was still in the military, had been reported," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut.
Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 after he was convicted of fracturing his baby stepson's skull and assaulting his first wife, Tessa, at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Sentenced to a year-long confinement in a psychiatric hospital, Kelley escaped and was recaptured in El Paso, Texas.