Texas church shooting: Pastor's 14-year-old daughter among dead

Pastor Pomeroy, wife Sherri, speak for first time publicly following mass shooting that claimed most of congregation.

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX - Among those killed when a shooting rampage erupted Sunday at a little clapboard church with a red door in Texas was a sweet 14-year-old girl named Annabelle — the daughter of the pastor.

Annabelle "was one very beautiful, special child,” Frank Pomeroy, pastor of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, told ABC News.

The pastor's wife, Sherri Pomeroy, wrote in a text message to the Associated Press that she and her husband were out of town in two different states when the attack occurred.

“We lost our 14 year old daughter today and many friends,” she wrote. “Neither of us have made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation." She said she was "trying to get home as soon as I can.”

Scott Pomeroy, the teen's uncle, posted a heartfelt tribute on his Facebook page with a photo of a smiling Annabelle by the pool. "Heaven truly gained a real beautiful angel this morning along with many more. I lost a lot of friends and family this morning but that just means Jesus needed them more. I know all that have taken their last breath of dirty air and took their first breath of heavenly air with new bodies with no pain and suffering."

About half of the 26 people killed in the gunman's assault Sunday were children, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said Monday.

READ: Youngest shooting victim was 18 months old

“You don’t expect to walk into a church and see something like that, especially when all the bodies were there, and seeing the children. That’s what hurts the most,” he said.

Nick Uhlig, 34, told AP he lost his cousin, who was pregnant, in the massacre. Uhlig, who said he attended the church but wasn't there Sunday, said family members had been told at least one of their kin had been killed.

“We just gathered to bury their grandfather on Thursday,” he said. “This is the only church here. We have Bible study, men’s Bible study, vacation Bible school.”

READ: 'We ask for God's comfort': 26 dead in church shooting, Gov. Abbott says

The church is located along Highway 87 about 35 miles from San Antonio in a sparsely populated stretch of land not far from a Dollar General, a gas station and convenience store and a post office.

The pastor beams from the church's website. "Welcome to First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas! We are blessed that you could join us ... It is our prayer that you have a glorious day in the Lord!"

Regina Rodriguez, who arrived at the church a few hours after the shooting, said her father, Richard Rodriguez, 51, attends the church every Sunday. She said she hadn’t been able to reach him and feared the worst.

Attacks on places of worship in the U.S. are not new.

The most horrific shooting in recent time came on a steamy night in June two years ago when gunman Dylan Roof opened fire at a weekly Bible study in Charleston, S.C., at  the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Nine people died, including senior pastor and state senator Clementa Pinckney.

In August 2012, a gunman burst into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and fatally shot six people and wounded four others.

RELATED: Resident shot, chased Texas church shooter

And on Sept. 24, police say Emanuel K. Samson, 25, fatally shot Melanie Crow and injured seven others in the shooting at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tenn.

Contributing: The Associated Press and The Tennessean.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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