The video makes clear that the masked man clad in black stormed into the church intent on shooting everyone there — and he nearly did. For several minutes, he fired quickly, pausing only to reload, methodically shooting his terrified victims — including small children — in the head, execution-style.
A video camera captured the blood bath inside a rural church, law enforcement officials said on Wednesday, recording the worst mass shooting in Texas history, which left 26 people dead, 20 wounded, and a small town devastated. That gruesome footage, which state and federal investigators have reviewed, stemmed from the church’s practice of regularly recording its services and posting the videos online.
Law enforcement agencies declined to say whether they would ever publicly release the video, which shows that the shooting lasted about seven long minutes, said an official who was briefed on the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing. The official said that the killer, armed with an assault rifle, went to the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs on Sunday morning with magazines capable of holding more than 400 rounds of ammunition, but it is not clear how many shots he actually fired.
On Wednesday, the Texas Department of Public Safety released the names of the dead, a cross-section of this unincorporated village of a few hundred people southeast of San Antonio. They included 10 women, seven men, eight children, and the unborn fetus carried by one of the victims, Crystal M. Holcombe. The youngest of the children was 1; the oldest of the adults was 77.
Eight of those gunned down belonged to a single family, the Holcombes and the Hills. One victim, Annabelle R. Pomeroy, 14, was the pastor’s daughter.
Vice President Mike Pence visited the church on Wednesday afternoon and later addressed a prayer vigil at a high school football stadium in nearby Floresville.
“The Bible tells us that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and that will be our prayer for you from this day forward,” Mr. Pence told an audience that included family members of the victims.
The gunman, Devin P. Kelley, 26, was convicted in 2012, while he was in the Air Force, of assaulting his first wife and her toddler son, and he served time in a military prison. Under federal law, that should have prevented him from having firearms, but the Air Force admitted on Monday that it had failed to forward information about him to the national databases used for gun purchase background checks.
The defense secretary, James Mattis, has directed the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General to look into what happened in that case, and review the reporting system in general. Several investigations and incidents have shown that the databases, run by the F.B.I., suffer from spotty reporting of criminal cases by the states and the military.
In addition to the assault case, Mr. Kelley tried to smuggle firearms onto Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, threatened to kill superior officers and spent time confined to a psychiatric hospital, from which he escaped briefly, according to a police report.
He was a suicidal “high risk patient” with “girlfriend issues” who told other patients at the hospital that he had recently bought guns online, according to records released on Wednesday by the Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Authority in southern New Mexico.
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SOURCE: New York Times, Adam Goldman, Richard Pérez-Peña and Manny Fernandez