CreditKSAT, via Associated Press
A gunman walked into a small Baptist church in rural Texas on Sunday and opened fire, killing at least 25 people and turning a tiny town east of San Antonio into the scene of the country’s most recent mass horror.
Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas confirmed the death toll, which has steadily increased throughout the day after the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.
Accounts of the number of dead have varied: Paul W. Pfeil, a Wilson County, Tex., commissioner, said that he did not have a total count of those killed but that it was “more than 20.”
Albert Gamez Jr., another Wilson County commissioner, told CNN that he was told by an emergency medical technician that 27 people were dead and 24 others were injured. He said he was told by the police that the gunman was chased into the next county and was killed, but it was not clear whether the police shot him or he killed himself.
Mr. Gamez said the victims were still inside the church. Sutherland Springs is a small community where everyone knows one another, he said. He added: “You never expect something like this. My heart is broken.”
The unincorporated community has a population that numbers in the low hundreds — the 2000 census was 362, according to the Texas State Historical Association. The preliminary death toll would amount to about 7 percent of the population.
The service at the church last Sunday, which was posted on YouTube, began with a rendition of a song called “Happiness Is the Lord.”
Then the pastor, Frank Pomeroy, told his parishioners — 20 to 30 were visible in the video — to walk around the room and “shake somebody’s hand.”
“Tell them it’s good to see them in God’s house this morning,” he said.
Videos posted online show lyrics to the hymns appearing on television screens with parishioners playing electric guitars and a sign language interpreter translating the songs.
Devin Keen, a constable in Wilson County, said “there were kids involved” in the shooting at the church.
Sheriff Joe Tackitt of Wilson County told The Wilson County News that a man had entered the church and begun firing.
CreditDarren Abate/Associated Press
Megan Posey, a spokeswoman for Connally Memorial Medical Center in Floresville, Tex., said that she did not know exactly how many patients the hospital had received, but that it was continuing to receive more.
The hospital has activated its emergency response team, she said. Information about the conditions of patients was not immediately available.
“We’re sending more officers on the streets to help secure Connally Memorial while they’re bringing the casualties to the hospital,” Constable Keen said.
Joseph Silva, 49, who lives about five miles northeast of Sutherland Springs, said the police had instructed his family and neighbors to stay indoors.
In a phone interview on Sunday afternoon, he described Sutherland Springs as “a one-blinking-light town.”
“There is a gas station and a post office,” he said. “That’s about all there really is.”
Mr. Silva said he had been approached by a woman who said she had two loved ones at the church who were shot.
“There are a number of individuals just weeping and just wanted to know what’s happened to their loved ones,” he said. “Everybody is pretty grief-stricken. Everyone’s worried.”
The First Baptist Church of La Vernia, Tex., about seven miles away, wrote on Facebook that it would open its doors from 5 to 7 p.m.
“Today an unthinkable tragedy occurred in our community,” the church wrote. “There will be Pastors and leaders present to pray with you or to talk, and the altar will be open for us to fall at the feet of Jesus.”
President Trump, who was in Japan on a trip to several Asian countries, offered his support.
Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, said in a statement: “The thoughts and prayers of all Texans are with the people of Sutherland Springs as tragic reports come out of First Baptist Church. My office stands ready to assist local law enforcement as needed.”
On Facebook, a user described the church: “It is such a warm and welcoming church that is truly filled with the Holy Spirit and shows real Christian love and friendship.”
An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of a Wilson County commissioner. He is Albert Gamez Jr., not Gamaz.
Freedom Is A Choice! “I am grabbing God’s coattail and letting Him lead”
Freedom has a deeper meaning for those like Omar Howard. Just a little over a decade ago he was released, seemingly free from the restraints of prison. Yet, walking out of the doors he had no clue he would be entering into the harsh prison of life that follows those like him who have a record. That record makes it hard for them to have the basic level of freedom that most of us who have never been down that road take for granted. Howard is like multiple men and women who are released from jail with a plan to change but have to fight the “system”. Howard describes his “beginning” as working endless opportunities just to make ends meet and being told “no” repeatedly. It would have been easy for Howard to just go back to the life of crime. Why wouldn’t he? Why didn’t he? His response, “You have to make a conscious decision to change every day. Life is about choices, every choice leads to a destination and you have to believe God is in control”. This thought process and his tenacity led him to his current place and receiving his pardon January 2018, just a month after celebrating his ten year release.
Howard was 15 when he dropped out of school and started down a path to destruction. Hard robbery was the crime that would ultimately change his life and leave him with no choice but to accept a plea deal that resulted in an 18 year sentence from a “hit” that left a man being killed. Howard maintains his innocence in the murder and has apologized to the family for the part that he played. Although he doesn’t blame his childhood for his choices, he does state that it’s important that parent’s play an essential part in the lives of the children that you bring into this world. “Parental intimacy is important, create structure for your kids and let them know how much you love them. Fathers, be a part of your children’s lives or they will embrace their counterparts for support. Be transparent and talk to your kids about real issues.”
When asked, What would you say to your younger self? Howard responds, “Establish a relationship with God. Embrace the process, strive harder and KNOW THAT YOU HAVE A PURPOSE.” The same thoughts he now shares with the youth that are involved with his foundation “Freedom is a Choice, Inc., a mentoring program for at-risk teens. It is evident that Howard is a changed man, as a Chaplain at the Atlanta Transitional Center in midtown, he speaks hope to those who are where he once was. He is a featured speaker in the documentary “Released” When Does the Sentence End?” and most recently shared his story on Iyanla Vanzat’s “Fix My Life” show. He is a man of action and on a mission to keep as many young men from walking in his shoes by exposing them to better. He is a sought after motivational speaker and hopes to extend his program to have one of the largest faith-based youth centers very soon. It is nothing short of amazing, but his ability to serve and give makes him a blessing.
Read more about The Omar Howard Story.
Is This Life?
Media headlines are displaying disaster all over the world with no resolve. From children being killed in innocent shootouts because of the flaws in gun laws to sexual abuse cases on the rise. Our government has gone haywire and currently dominating the spotlight while, deadly diseases and mental illnesses are being minimized. Is this life? Is this what life is becoming? Every morning we wake up to the sound of breaking news and headlines that make us cringe. Positive stories and encouraging words have become harder to find. When asking others, “How do you deal with the negative energy every day?” Some reply, “I don’t. I don’t watch the news, or I don’t listen to it.” My reply is usually this, “It isn’t just on the news. It’s walking or sitting right beside you and sometimes it’s even in your household. There are people suffering every day because of the things we don’t do, don’t want to see, or simply don’t want to get involved in.” We have been conditioned to not get in anyone else’s business unless it affects us personally. Look around you, open your eyes. It’s now affecting us all and we must do something. This is a call for action. It’s time we all unselfishly take part in rebuilding our communities. Make it your business to do something intentional every day in an effort to make a change in your community and begin to push everyone including yourself out of the comfort of just accepting what is. We are losing innocent lives every day to drug abuse, domestic violence, hunger, contaminated water and the list of disasters that are happening right under our nose increase, every second, every minute and every hour of every day.
You may be wondering what you can do to promote positive change in your community, here is a start:
- Volunteer at shelters-Everyone has something they can provide-share your expertise. Help by donating your goods and knowledge.
- Volunteer at schools-Teachers need more mentors and positive role models. We all have a story, share your experience and give a child a blueprint to a better life.
- Spend quality time with your kids and your family- We get so caught up in life that we forget to nourish what we have already been blessed with. Take time to water the seeds you planted.
- Contact your political partners and work with them on change for your community. What do you see in your area that would be an easy fix to reduce crime or poverty. Make a plan and Expose it!
There are so many things that we can do to change the direction of this world but WE must work together for the good and it doesn’t matter what religion, race or sex you are-we all have something in common. We want the best for our families.
Post and share your thoughts on what you can do to expose and improve your community. Hashtag#exposuremagazine #isthislife
Cubs Sign Pitcher Yu Darvish to $126 Million Deal in Preparation for Next Title Run
Making one of the biggest splashes this off-season, the Chicago Cubs have added pitcher Yu-Darvish, formerly of the Los Angeles to their talented, but imperfect roster.
The deal for Darvish standing at $126 million also comes with an opt out clause along with performance clauses to increase the value of the deal. The Cubs had been in talks with Darvish for a good portion of the last season, but now apparently was the best time for both parties.
Despite the unceremonious ending to last season in the NLCS, the Cubs have been in a better place these past several seasons than they have been in a long while. The signing of Darvish to say the least is a very good insurance policy to sustain this run.
With names like Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, Darvish will complete the rotation for one of the most talented group of pitchers in baseball. However this move seems to nudge Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta who is currently a free agent to the door. Arrieta had an up and down season with flashes of greatness, but ultimately didn’t make the best case to remain with the ball club.
Darvish brings a 2.4 ERA against National League Central opponents as well as his all-time MLB leading 11 strikeouts per nine innings ratio to the Cubs which makes this the pickup many other teams are coveting right now. The Cubs begin spring training in a week and can begin integrating Darvish then in preparation for the upcoming season.
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