Wednesday 18 July 2018

'Too stark a reminder' - Texas massacre church will be demolished, says pastor

The site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
The site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Jim Vertuno

The Texas church where more than two dozen people were killed by a gunman during Sunday services will be demolished, the pastor said.

Frank Pomeroy told leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention earlier this week that it would be too painful to continue using First Baptist Church as a place of worship.

A national Southern Baptist spokesman said Mr Pomeroy discussed the plan with the denomination's top executives, who travelled to the rural community in a show of support.

Sing Oldham said the pastor described the building as "too stark of a reminder" of the massacre. Mr Pomeroy expressed hope he could turn the site into a memorial for the dead and put up a new building on property the church owns.

On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence joined Texas Governor Greg Abbott at a memorial service for the victims of the gunman.

Mr Pence told the crowd that the attack was the worst mass shooting at a church in American history and called the gunman "deranged".

Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team use metal detectors at the playground at the site of the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland, Texas, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team use metal detectors at the playground at the site of the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland, Texas, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Memorial flowers are surrounded by media waiting for a news conference outside the site of the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland, Texas, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A woman delivers flowers to a memorial surrounded by media waiting for a news conference outside the site of the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland, Texas, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team use metal detectors outside the site of the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland, Texas, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Pastor Frank Pomeroy (L) listens to his wife Sherri speaking at a news conference outside the site of the shooting at his church, the First Baptist Church of Sutherland, Texas, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team use metal detectors outside the site of the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland, Texas, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Pastor Frank Pomeroy, with his wife Sherri, listens at a news conference outside the site of the shooting at his church, the First Baptist Church of Sutherland, Texas, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Officials speak to the news media during a news conference, a day after a mass shooting at the First Baptish Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Herskovitz
A law enforcement vehicle sits outside the entrance where Devin Patrick Kelley lived Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, in New Braunfels, Texas.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
A bouquet of flowers lies at the base of a roadblock where law enforcement officials work at the scene of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. . (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
The playground at the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A woman looks at her phone on her porch next to the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A woman looks at her phone, on her porch next to the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A woman sits on her porch next to the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Neighbours who live next to the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs are pictured, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Neighbours who live next to the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs are pictured, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Neighbours who live next to the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs are pictured, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A woman is escorted to site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Neighbours who live next to the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs are pictured, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Police stand outside the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
The site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
The playground at the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
The site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
The playground at the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
The site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A man walks past the front of the First Baptist Church on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, where a gunman opened fire on a Sunday service in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
Media and police stand outside the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Police stand outside the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A police officer walks down the street past a huge refrigerated tent outside the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A police officer stands outside the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

"Whatever animated the evil that descended on that small church, if the attacker's desire was to silence their testimony of faith, they failed," the vice president added.

The governor said Texans come together at times of crisis and tragedy. "It's what we do," Mr Abbott said. People in the crowd responded "amen".

He also proclaimed Sunday November 12 a state-wide day of prayer.

Mr Pence also visited wounded congregants at a San Antonio hospital and met with families of the dead in Floresville, not far from Sutherland Springs. He went from table to table at a high school library, attempting to console devastated family members.

"The whole country is praying over you," he told one man who lost his sister-in-law.

He stopped to talk with John Holcombe, whose family was decimated by the shooting. Mr Holcombe, who suffered shrapnel wounds, lost his wife, Crystal, who was pregnant with their first child. Also killed were three of her children, his parents, a brother and a toddler niece.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Pence said President Donald Trump had ordered federal agencies to provide extensive help to the investigation, including 100 on-site FBI agents.

The Texas Department of Public Safety released an official list of those killed in the rampage. The eight male victims and 17 female victims ranged in age from one to 77.

Eight of the fatalities were children or teenagers. The oldest of them was 16.

Authorities said the 26 dead also included Crystal Holcombe's unborn baby. All the victims died at the scene, except for one child who died in hospital.

Eleven people remained hospitalised with wounds they suffered in the attack.

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