Tuesday 18 September 2018

'I hit the deck and I just lay there' - Neighbour of church where 26 died describes hearing semi-automatic gunfire

Members of the FBI walk next to the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs after a fatal shooting, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Members of the FBI walk next to the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs after a fatal shooting, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A man who lives near the church in Texas where 26 people were shot dead has described hearing semi-automatic gunfire from his front porch.

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."

A man with an assault rifle killed at least 26 people and wounded 20 in the rural Texas church during Sunday services, adding the name of Sutherland Springs to the litany of American communities shattered by mass shootings.

The massacre, which media reports say was carried out by a man thrown out of the Air Force for assaulting his wife and child, is likely to renew questions about why someone with a history of violence could amass an arsenal of lethal weaponry.

The lone gunman, dressed in black tactical gear and a ballistic vest, drove up to the white-steepled First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and started firing inside. He kept shooting once he entered, killing or wounding victims ranging in age from five to 72 years, police told a news conference.

President Donald Trump told reporters the shooting was due to a "mental health problem" and wasn't "a guns situation." He was speaking during an official visit to Japan.

Among the dead was the 14-year-old daughter of Pastor Frank Pomeroy, the family told several television stations.

The gunman was later found dead, apparently of a gunshot wound, after he fled the scene.

Reuters

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