‘We have a lot of mental health problems in our country … but this isn't a guns situation’ president says
The deaths of 26 congregants at a church in the state of Texas is a “mental health problem at the highest level,” President Donald Trump said Monday.
The shooting in the small rural town just outside of San Antonio has already sparked more demands for lawmakers to tighten gun laws, but less than 24 hours after the latest mass shooting in the U.S., the president tried to delay discussion on the issue.
“This was a very, based on preliminary reports, a very deranged individual. A lot of problems over a long period of time,” Trump said at a joint news conference in Japan. “We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries. But this isn't a guns situation.”
Suspected gunman Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, walked into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs and opened fire during service Sunday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said at a news conference.
The Pentagon confirmed Kelley was a member of the U.S. military and served at an Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until 2014 when he received a bad conduct discharged for assaulting his wife and child, according to reports.
A local resident engaged Kelley with a rifle as he tried to leave the church. After a brief chase that included another resident, the suspect was found dead.
Police have not been able to determine a motive but Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told NBC News that Kelley’s former in-laws worshipped at the church. “They were not here yesterday to attend church but they did come yesterday afternoon and speak to investigators,” he said.
Officials said 23 victims were found dead inside the church, two were found outside and one died at a hospital. Approximately 20 victims are being treated at local hospitals with wounds that range from minor to critical.
“We are dealing with the largest mass shooting in our state’s history.” Abbott said.
The victims range in age from 5 - 72 years old but it is unclear if that indicates all casualties.
Among the dead were eight victims from one family, a grieving relative told the Washington Post. That relative said the victims included an infant.
Kathleen Curnow witnessed the massacre with her husband.
Initially, she believed she heard children playing with firecrackers before her husband saw from their bedroom window the gunman shooting outside the church.
“I was raised among guns all my life and I was not ever prepared to just hear that,” she said.
When the shooting stopped, Curnow’s husband ran to the church but was shaken by the scene inside.
“My husband actually went to the church to render aid and he’s a strong man but he turned around and came back. He just couldn’t. He said, ‘I can’t do it,’” she told NBC.