At least 27 dead, more than two dozen injured in shooting at rural Texas church
WATCH Mass shooting at church in Texas: Special report
At least 27 people were killed and 27 others injured in a mass shooting at a church in rural Texas this morning, a law enforcement official told ABC News.
The alleged shooter, who has not been identified, is dead following the massacre in Sutherland Springs, about 40 miles southeast of San Antonio, authorities said.
Among those killed at the First Baptist Church was a 14-year-old girl named Annabelle Renee Pomeroy, according to her father, Frank Pomeroy, who is a pastor at the church.
14-year-old girl among the victims
Annabelle “was one very beautiful, special child,” Pomeroy told ABC News by phone.
Pomeroy said he was in Oklahoma this morning — a rare weekend that he wasn't at the church.
The other victims are all close friends of his, he said.
Last Sunday, Pomeroy delivered a sermon at the church, encouraging parishioners to "lean on the Lord," even when circumstances don't make sense.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely, or lean, on your own understanding," he said. "You see God's understanding is far greater and there may be things that are taking place that you don't understand but you still need to do what God's calling you to do."
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'We heard several shots and we all started running'
A woman who said she works at a gas station across the street from the church told ABC News she heard rapid gunfire around 11:15 a.m.
Congregants fled the church and ran to the station cowering for cover, she said.
“We heard several shots and we all started running inside the store,” said the woman, who said she is 49 but declined to give her name.
“It lasted about 15 seconds," she said. "I yelled, ‘Get down! Get inside!’ and we all went into hiding.”
Within minutes of the gunfire, emergency personnel arrived at the scene, she said.
She said the gas station locked its doors and has not reopened.
A church turns into a crime scene
The First Baptist Church is an unassuming, white building with a red-hued door, with numerous flags in front, including an American flag and one for the Lone Star State. It’s on what appears to be a dusty road in a rural area.
Police formed a perimeter around the church and flooded its grounds with emergency and police vehicles, according to ABC affiliate KSAT-TV in San Antonio. Agents from the FBI and ATF have responded to the scene.
A small group of people were seen clustered together outside the church, holding hands and attempting to pray, a KSAT-TV reporter said.
Families in tears wait to see if their family and friends are safe. Praying for the safety of all those involved. pic.twitter.com/yjzK7lZJ1S
— Max Massey (@MaxMasseyTV) November 5, 2017
Paul Buford, a pastor at a church just a couple of miles away in Sutherland Springs, told KSAT-TV that his congregation was in the middle of their service at River Oaks Church when they started getting calls about the shooting.
Members of his church who are first responders rushed out while the rest of the congregation immediately started praying.
A portrait of the shooter emerges
Authorities have preliminary identified the shooter as a white male in his mid 20s, from outside San Antonio, multiple sources told ABC News. On social media the suspect recently displayed AR-15 style-looking gun, sources said. A LinkedIn account indicates he may have had a military background, sources said.
At this point, today's church massacre is the fourth deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S history, after Las Vegas, Orlando and Virginia Tech.
Trump and Texas officials react
President Donald Trump, who is in Japan, tweeted, "May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas."
May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 5, 2017
Trump has been briefed “several times” and is continuing to receive regular updates, said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement, "While the details of this horrific act are still under investigation, Cecilia and I want to send our sincerest thoughts and prayers to all those who have been affected by this evil act. I want to thank law enforcement for their response and ask that all Texans pray for the Sutherland Springs community during this time of mourning and loss."
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton 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."
"Please join Angela and me as we pray for those impacted by this horrific shooting,” Paxton said.
This marks the third mass shooting at a U.S. church in the past three years.
In Sept. 2017, a gunman allegedly stormed the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee, shooting and killing a woman in the parking lot and then entering the church sanctuary, shooting and wounding six people.
In June 2015, white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine black churchgoers during a Bible study at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In Jan. 2017, Roof was sentenced to death.
ABC News' Jack Date, Pierre Thomas, Mike Levine, Aaron Katersky, Michael DelMoro and Joi-Marie McKenzie contributed to this report.