Texas gunman kills at least 26 worshipers at small-town church

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (Reuters) - A gunman massacred at least 26 worshipers and wounded 20 others at a church in southeast Texas on Sunday, carrying out the latest in a series of mass shootings that have plagued the United States, authorities said.

The shooting occurred at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in Wilson County, about 40 miles (65 km) east of San Antonio.

The lone suspect, wearing black clothing, entered the building and began firing, according to a statement from the Texas Department of Public Safety. After the shooting, he fled in his vehicle and was later found dead in neighboring Guadalupe County. The circumstances of the gunman’s death are still under investigation, the state agency said.

SEE ALSOTexas church shooting results in multiple fatalities

Neither the suspect's identity nor motive were disclosed by authorities. But law enforcement officials who were not identified have said the gunman as a white, 26-year-old man, the New York Times and other media reported.

The 14-year-old daughter of pastor Frank Pomeroy was killed, the family told several television stations.

Jeff Forrest, a 36-year-old military veteran who lives a block away from the church, said what sounded like high-caliber, semi-automatic gunfire triggered memories of his four combat deployments with the Marine Corps.

“I was on the porch, I heard 10 rounds go off and then my ears just started ringing,” Forrest said. “I hit the deck and I just lay there."

RELATED: Photos from the scene of the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting

22 PHOTOS
Photos from the scene of the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting
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Photos from the scene of the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting
Police block a road in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 5, 2017, after a mass shooting a church nearby. A gunman shot dead at least 20 worshippers attending Sunday morning services at a Baptist church in Texas, news media reported. / AFP PHOTO / SUZANNE CORDEIRO (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Police block a road in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 5, 2017, after a mass shooting a church nearby. A gunman shot dead at least 20 worshippers attending Sunday morning services at a Baptist church in Texas, news media reported. / AFP PHOTO / SUZANNE CORDEIRO (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Police block a road in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, 2017, after a mass shooting at the the First Baptist Church. A gunman went into the church during Sunday morning services and shot dead some two dozen worshippers, the sheriff said, in the latest mass shooting to shock the US. 'Approximately 25 people' were dead, including the shooter, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told NBC News. At least 10 people were wounded. The motive was not immediately known, he added. / AFP PHOTO / SUZANNE CORDEIRO (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Police block a road in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, 2017, after a mass shooting at the the First Baptist Church (rear). A gunman went into the church during Sunday morning services and shot dead some two dozen worshippers, the sheriff said, in the latest mass shooting to shock the US. 'Approximately 25 people' were dead, including the shooter, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told NBC News. At least 10 people were wounded. The motive was not immediately known, he added. / AFP PHOTO / SUZANNE CORDEIRO (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Families gather at the community center awaiting news about the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
Families gather at the community center awaiting news about the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Law enforcement officials gather near the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Law enforcement officials gather near the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 6: Law enforcement officials gather near the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Law enforcement and forensic officials gather near the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: A forensics official passes by the entrance to the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Law enforcement officials gather near the First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
Families gather at the community center awaiting news about the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
Police are at the scene of the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
Families gather at the community center awaiting news about the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
Police have closed off the roads near the scene of the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
First responders are at the shooting scene at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
First responders are at the scene of shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
First responders are at the scene of shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: People gather near First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 26 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, allegedly entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Law enforcement officials gather near First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At least 26 people were reportedly killed and 24 injured when a gunman, identified as Devin P. Kelley, 26, allegedly entered the church during a service and opened fire. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
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The massacre comes just weeks after a sniper killed 58 people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The shootings have stirred a years-long national debate over whether easy access to firearms was contributing to the trend.

President Donald Trump said he was monitoring the situation while in Japan on a 12-day Asian trip.

"May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene," he said on Twitter.

According to the witnesses, about 20 shots rang out at 11:30 a.m. (1730 GMT) during the church services, according to media reports. It was unclear how many worshippers were inside at the time.

After the shooting, the suspect sped away in a car and was soon cornered by sheriff's deputies just outside of Wilson County in Guadalupe County, Wiley told Reuters. He did not know if the shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot or was killed by deputies.

Connally Memorial Medical Center in Floresville received eight patients, the hospital said in a statement, while Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston received another eight.

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At Connally, three people were treated and released, one is in critical condition and four were transferred to the University Hospital in San Antonio for a higher level of care.

The First Baptist Church is one of two houses of worship in Sutherland Springs, an area that is home to fewer than 900 residents, according to the 2010 Census. There are also two gas stations and a Dollar General store in town.

The white-painted, one-story structure features a small steeple and a single front door. On Sunday, the Lone Star flag of Texas was flying alongside the U.S. flag and a third, unidentified banner.

Inside there is a small raised platform on which members sang worship songs to guitar music and the pastor delivered a weekly sermon, according to videos posted on YouTube. In one of the clips, a few dozen people, including young children, can be seen sitting in the wooden pews.

Pastor Paul Buford of River Oaks Church, about 2 miles from First Baptist, said the community was deeply shaken.

"We are holding up as well as we can," he said. "We are a strong community."

RELATED: Man arrives in Las Vegas delivers hand-made crosses to honor mass shooting victims

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Man arrives in Las Vegas delivers hand-made crosses to honor mass shooting victims
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Man arrives in Las Vegas delivers hand-made crosses to honor mass shooting victims
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 06: Mourners gather at the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign where Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter from Chicago, Illinois, placed 58 crosses to honor those who were killed during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shootings October 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On October 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 450. The massacre is one of the deadliest mass shooting events in U.S. history. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 06: Mourners gather at the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign where Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter from Chicago, Illinois, placed 58 crosses to honor those who were killed during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shootings, October 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On October 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 450. The massacre is one of the deadliest mass shooting events in U.S. history. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 06: Mourners gather at the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign where Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter from Chicago, Illinois, placed 58 crosses to honor those who were killed during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shootings, October 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On October 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 450. The massacre is one of the deadliest mass shooting events in U.S. history. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 06: U.S. Army veteran Adam Arizaga of Las Vegas, Nevada, places flowers on a cross at the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign on October 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. 58 crosses made by Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter from Chicago, Illinois, are at the location to honor those who were killed during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shootings. On October 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 450. The massacre is one of the deadliest mass shooting events in U.S. history. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 06: U.S. Army veteran Adam Arizaga of Las Vegas, Nevada, places flowers on a cross at the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign. 58 crosses made by Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter from Chicago, Illinois, are at the location to honor those who were killed during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shootings. October 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 06: Mourners gather at the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign where Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter from Chicago, Illinois, placed 58 crosses to honor those who were killed during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shootings October 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On October 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 450. The massacre is one of the deadliest mass shooting events in U.S. history. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 06: Mourners gather at the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign where Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter from Chicago, Illinois, placed 58 crosses to honor those who were killed during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shootings, October 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On October 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 450. The massacre is one of the deadliest mass shooting events in U.S. history. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 06: Mourners gather at the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign where Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter from Chicago, Illinois, placed 58 crosses to honor those who were killed during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shootings, October 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On October 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 450. The massacre is one of the deadliest mass shooting events in U.S. history. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images)
Greg Zanis of Chicago, Illinois works on one of the 58 white crosses he set up for the victims of the Route 91 music festival mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 06: Mourners gather at the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign where Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter from Chicago, Illinois, placed 58 crosses to honor those who were killed during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shootings, October 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On October 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 450. The massacre is one of the deadliest mass shooting events in U.S. history. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 06: Mourners gather at the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign where Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter from Chicago, Illinois, placed 58 crosses to honor those who were killed during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shootings, October 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On October 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 450. The massacre is one of the deadliest mass shooting events in U.S. history. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 06: Mourners gather at the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign where Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter from Chicago, Illinois, placed 58 crosses to honor those who were killed during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shootings, October 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On October 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 450. The massacre is one of the deadliest mass shooting events in U.S. history. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images)
Greg Zanis of Chicago, Illinois works on one of the 58 white crosses he set up for the victims of the Route 91 music festival mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 06: Mourners gather at the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign where Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter from Chicago, Illinois, placed 58 crosses to honor those who were killed during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shootings, October 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On October 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 450. The massacre is one of the deadliest mass shooting events in U.S. history. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images)
Greg Zanis of Chicago, Illinois works on one of the 58 white crosses he set up for the victims of the Route 91 music festival mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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The shooting occurred on the eighth anniversary of the Nov. 5, 2009 massacre of 13 people at the Fort Hood Army base in central Texas. A U.S. Army Medical Corps psychiatrist convicted of the killings is now awaiting execution.

In 2015, a white gunman killed nine black parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The gunman was sentenced to death for the racially motivated attack.

In September, a gunman killed a woman in the parking lot of a Tennessee church on Sunday morning and wounded six worshipers inside the building before shooting himself in a scuffle with an usher who rushed to stop the attack.

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