When the gunman first entered the church and began to open fire, preacher Bryan was on his way to the pulpit to lead the congregation. He and Karla had been married for 25 years. Speaking to The Daily Beast, family friend Gil Waguespak paid his respects to the Holcombe family.
“You didn’t have to worry about Bryan just randomly preaching to you. That was not him,” Waguespak said. “More like a gentle listener with a heart the size of Texas.”
Friend James Hoffman added: “No doubt if he were here right now Bryan would grab that shooter and say how much he loved him and take him in and show him that love firsthand”.
Among the victims was the 14-year-old daughter of the First Baptist Church Pastor Frank Pomeroy. The pastor told ABC News that his daughter Annabelle lost her life in the shooting and recounted: "She was one beautiful, special child".
Local law enforcement sources have identified the shooter as 26-year-old Devin P. Kelley.
Days before the mass shooting, Kelley posted a chilling photograph of an assault rifle with the caption "She’s a bad b***h” on his Facebook page, The Daily Beast reports.
After opening fire, the gunman fled the scene. Police have confirmed that after a short pursuit he is now dead. Wilson County Commissioner Albert Gamez Jr. explained that it wasn't clear whether he was killed by police or killed himself.
“You never expect something like this,” Gamez said. “My heart is broken.”
Sutherland Springs is a small rural community, with local resident Joseph Silva telling the Times, “there is a gas station and a post office… that’s about all there really is.”
On Twitter, Texas Governor Greg Abbott shared his condolences to the victims of the horrific mass shooting. He tweeted: "Our prayers are with all who were harmed by this evil act. Our thanks to law enforcement for their response."
At this stage the gunman’s motives are unclear.
A GoFundMe has been created for the Holcombe family. You can donate here.