Investigators work at the scene of a deadly shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Sunday Nov. 5, 2017. A man opened fire inside of the church in the small South Texas community on Sunday, killing more than 20 people. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas
The Sutherland Springs, Texas, church where more than two dozen people were gunned down Sunday will be demolished, according to its pastor, Frank Pomeroy.
Pomeroy, whose 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was killed in what is being considered the largest mass shooting in the state’s modern history, told leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention that it would be too painful to continue using the building.
Charlene Uhl, mother of 16-year-old Haley Krueger, who died in the attack, agreed that the church should come down.
“There should still be a church but not here,” she said Thursday as she visited a row of white crosses commemorating the victims in front of the church. She said her daughter attended worship services and a weekly Thursday night youth group meeting held by another victim, Karla Holcombe.
Jeannie Brown, visiting from Indiana, stopped at the site with her daughter, who used to live in Sutherland Springs but left decades ago for San Antonio.
Asked whether the church should be destroyed, Brown said: “Yes. Who would want to go back in there? But then if it is destroyed, does that mean he (the gunman) won?”
Other sites of mass shootings have been torn down, including Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in December 2012. A new school was built elsewhere.
A one-room Amish schoolhouse near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was torn down in 2006, 10 days after an assailant took children hostage and shot and killed five girls ages 6 to 13.
The previous site of the school is now a pasture. A nearly identical schoolhouse with a security fence was erected nearby and named New Hope School.
In Sutherland Springs, pastors from surrounding areas organized a service on Sunday at a community center next door to the church, and Pomeroy is slated to speak, according to CNN.
“I don’t want our lives, our grandchildren’s lives, destroyed by this media circus,” Michael Kelley said from his home in New Braunfels.
Authorities have not released a motive for the shooting but believe the attack was linked to a dispute Devin Kelley had with his wife’s family. Additional answers might be contained in Devin Kelley’s cellphone, but investigators are having a difficult time cracking into it.
He bought four guns — one each year from 2014 to 2017 — despite convictions in 2012 after fracturing his baby stepson’s skull and assaulting his wife. He was discharged from the Air Force for bad conduct and confined for one year.
But the convictions never were uploaded to an FBI database that would have prevented him from acquiring firearms legally. The Air Force released a statement Monday saying an investigation is underway. Vice President Mike Pence, speaking in Sutherland Springs on Wednesday, said the administration is working with Congress to ensure that the crime reporting lapse “never happens again.”
The eight male victims and 17 female victims ranged in age from 1 to 77. Eight members of the Holcombe family perished in the shooting.
Authorities said the 26 dead also included the fetus of Crystal Holcombe, who was killed. All the victims died at the scene, except for one child who died at a hospital.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.