SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP) — A man dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault rifle opened fire inside a church in a small South Texas community on Sunday, killing 26 people and wounding about 20 in what the governor called the deadliest mass shooting in the state’s history. The dead ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old.
Authorities didn’t identify the attacker during a news conference Sunday night, but two other officials — one a U.S. official and one in law enforcement — identified him as Devin Kelley. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation.
The U.S. official said Kelley lived in a San Antonio suburb and didn’t appear to be linked to organized terrorist groups. Investigators were looking at social media posts Kelley made in the days before Sunday’s attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon. An Air Force spokeswoman said Sunday night that Devin P. Kelley received a bad-conduct discharge from the Air Force for allegedly assaulting his spouse and child, and was sentenced to 12 months’ confinement after a 2012 court-martial. Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge, spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.
At the news conference, the attacker was described only as a white man in his 20s who was wearing black tactical gear and a ballistic vest when he pulled into a gas station across from the First Baptist Church around 11:20 a.m. The gunman then crossed the street and started firing a Ruger AR rifle at the church, said Freeman Martin, a regional director of the Texas Department of Safety, then continued firing after entering the white wood-frame building, where an 11 a.m. service was scheduled. As he left, the shooter was confronted by an armed resident who “grabbed his rifle and engaged that suspect,” Martin said. A short time later, the suspect was found dead in his vehicle at the county line.
Several weapons were found inside the vehicle and Martin said it was unclear if the attacker died of a self-inflicted wound or if he was shot by the resident who confronted him. He said investigators weren’t ready to discuss a possible motive. Martin said 23 of the dead were found in the church, two were found outside and one died after being taken to a hospital. Addressing the news conference, Gov. Greg Abbott called the attack the worst mass shooting in Texas history. “There are no words to describe the pure evil that we witnessed in Sutherland Springs today,” Abbott said. “Our hearts are heavy at the anguish in this small town, but in time of tragedy, we see the very best of Texas. May God comfort those who’ve lost a loved one, and may God heal the hurt in our communities.”
Among those killed was the church pastor’s 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle Pomeroy. Pastor Frank Pomeroy, and his wife, Sherri, were both out of town in two different states when the attack occurred, Sherri Pomeroy wrote in a text message to the AP. “We lost our 14-year-old daughter today and many friends,” she wrote. “Neither of us has made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation. I am at the Charlotte airport trying to get home as soon as I can.”
Federal law enforcement swarmed the small rural community of a few hundred residents 30 miles southeast of San Antonio after the attack, including ATF investigators and members of the FBI’s evidence collection team.
At least 16 wounded were taken to hospitals, hospital officials said, including eight taken by medical helicopter to the Brooke Army Medical Center. Another eight victims were taken to Connally Memorial Medical Center, located in Floresville about 10 miles from the church, including four who were later transferred to University Hospital in San Antonio for higher-level care, said spokeswoman Megan Posey.
Hunter Green, 16, normally attends the church with his girlfriend but they skipped Sunday after a late date night. Attending a candlelight vigil hours later, he described the building as having only small exits on the side and in the back that would have made it very difficult to flee a shooter entering the front door. “They wouldn’t have had anywhere to go,” Green said.
Alena Berlanga, a Floresville resident who was monitoring the chaos on a police scanner and in Facebook community groups, said everyone knows everyone else in the sparsely populated county. “This is horrific for our tiny little tight-knit town,” Berlanga said. “Everybody’s going to be affected and everybody knows someone who’s affected.”
Regina Rodriguez, who arrived at the church a couple of hours after the shooting, walked up to the police barricade and hugged a person she was with. She said her father, 51-year-old Richard Rodriguez, attends the church every Sunday, and she hadn’t been able to reach him. She said she feared the worst.
Church member Nick Uhlig, 34, wasn’t at Sunday’s service, but he said his cousins were at the church and that his family was told at least one of them, a woman with three children and pregnant with another, was among the dead. “We just gathered to bury their grandfather on Thursday,” he said, shaking his head. “This is the only church here. We have Bible study, men’s Bible study, vacation Bible school. Somebody went in and started shooting.”
President Donald Trump, who was in Japan, called the shooting an “act of evil” and said he was monitoring the situation. “We’re shocked. Shocked and dismayed,” said state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Laredo Democrat whose district includes Sutherland Springs, a rural community known for its peanut festival, which was held last month. “It’s especially shocking when it’s such a small, serene area. These rural areas, they are so beautiful and so loving.”
Later Sunday, two sheriff’s vans were parked outside the gate of a cattle fence surrounding the address listed for Kelley on the rural, western outskirts of New Braunfels, north of San Antonio, preventing a group of waiting journalists from entering. Officials from the Comal County Sherriff’s Office and the Texas Rangers declined to comment or say if they had raided his home.
Ryan Albers, 16, who lives across the road said he heard intensifying gunfire coming from that direction in recent days. “It had to be coming from somewhere pretty close,” Albers said. “It was definitely not just a shotgun or someone hunting. It was someone using automatic weapon fire.”
The church has posted videos of its Sunday services on a YouTube channel, raising the possibility that the shooting was captured on video.
In a video of its Oct. 8 service, a congregant who spoke and read Scripture pointed to the Oct. 1 Las Vegas shooting a week earlier as evidence of the “wicked nature” of man. That shooting left 58 dead and more than 500 injured.
Until Sunday, the deadliest mass shooting in Texas had been a 1991 attack in Killeen, when a mentally disturbed man crashed his pickup truck through a restaurant window at lunchtime and started shooting people, killing 23 and injuring more than 20 others.
The University of Texas was the site of one of the most infamous mass shootings in American history, when U.S. Marine sniper Charles Whitman climbed the Austin campus’ clock tower in 1966 and began firing on stunned people below, killing 13 and wounding nearly three dozen others. He had killed his wife and mother before heading to the tower, one victim died a week later and medical examiners eventually attributed a 17th death to Whitman in 2001.
Covid-19 cases rise aboard first cruise to resume sailing in the Caribbean
So far a total of seven passengers have tested positive for Covid-19 aboard the SeaDream 1 cruise ship docked in Barbados, according to two passengers on the ship.
Passengers who have tested negative for the virus will be able to leave the ship and travel home, Gene Sloan and Ben Hewitt told CNN on Friday. They are both among a handful of cruise journalists and bloggers on board.
The SeaDream Yacht Club cruise was the first to return to the Caribbean since the coronavirus pandemic shut operations down in March and was meant to demonstrate that increased safety protocols, including regular testing aboard the ship, could allow cruise voyages to take place during the pandemic.
Instead one passenger fell ill on Wednesday, forcing the SeaDream 1 to return to Barbados, where all 53 passengers and 66 crew were tested.
Hewitt said the crew had informed passengers that everyone who had tested negative twice would be allowed to disembark the ship and fly home on Saturday.
SeaDream Yacht Club said in a news release Thursday afternoon that “guests” had received “assumptive positive” results to preliminary rapid Covid tests, but did not specify the number who had done so.
SeaDream was asked to confirm the exact number of positive results.
SeaDream responded “We are working closely with local health and government authorities to resolve this situation in the best possible way,” said SeaDream‘s Andreas Brynestad, in the SeaDream release.
Intercom announcement of positive test result
Sloan, who is a senior reporter for cruise and travel at The Points Guy, reported that the Covid scare started when the captain informed passengers of the preliminary positive test over the ship’s intercom system shortly before lunchtime on Wednesday.
Passengers were instructed to return to their cabins and remain isolated there, he said.
The ship, which was in the Grenadines at the time of the first preliminary positive test, docked in Barbados Wednesday evening.
“It’s not a great development for the cruise industry,” Sloan told CNN via email on Wednesday from his cabin on board. “I think the hope had been that the rigorous testing that SeaDream was doing would keep Covid off its ship.”
Multilayer testing for Covid-19 has been an integral part of SeaDream‘s efforts to create a Covid-19 negative bubble aboard its ships.
Passengers were tested in advance of traveling to the ship and also before boarding the ship, Sloan said.
“And SeaDream also was testing passengers four days into the trip,” he said. “We were scheduled to be tested again today. That’s a more rigorous testing plan than most lines had been discussing for the restarts.”
The protocol is due in part to the strict testing required by Barbados, where the ship will be based for the season, Sloan noted.
“I think what this shows is it’s going to happen. And until there’s a vaccine or herd immunity, when cruising starts up you’re going to see things like this happen. The question is how often and how big?”
Voyages from Barbados
SeaDream‘s winter voyages from Barbados started on November 7 with the sailing that has now been cut short.
These new Caribbean sailings follow a successful summer season for SeaDream in Norway, which the company said “resulted in zero positive cases during the entire Norwegian summer season.”
“After completing a successful summer season in Norway, we implemented even stricter health and safety protocols for our Barbados winter season. All guests were tested twice prior to embarkation and we are in the process of retesting guests,” said SeaDream‘s Andreas Brynestad in the statement released on Thursday.
Ben Hewitt, host of Cruise with Ben & David on YouTube, expressed his disappointment and frustration with the virus in an interview Thursday from his stateroom.
“It’s just so disappointing that this has happened because everybody has their hopes up high, and we can’t see anything more that they could’ve done,” said Hewitt.
“It’s just such a horrible virus, it just gets everywhere even with the constant testing.”
The use of masks on the voyage has been far less stringent.
Sloan told CNN that initially no one was wearing face masks, not even the crew. Crew members told him they weren’t necessary since the ship was a Covid-free “bubble.”
Then a few days into sailing, SeaDream instituted a mask policy but didn’t offer an explanation, he said.
Fewer than 250 guests
SeaDream‘s ships, which the company refers to as “superyachts,” have 56 staterooms, with a capacity for 112 guests and 95 crew.
Carrying fewer than 250 guests outside of US waters allows SeaDream to operate outside of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s orders around cruising.
The CDC recently issued a “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order for Cruise Ships.”
The order, which applies to cruise ships in US territorial waters that have capacity to carry at least 250 passengers, is considered a tentative step toward the resumption of cruising.
Trade group Cruise Lines International Association said it will work with the CDC to resume US sailings as soon as possible, but that its members would continue a voluntary suspension of operations through the end of 2020.
On Friday, a letter signed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) called on the CDC to reinstate its no-sail order for cruise ships and reverse efforts to restart the industry’s US operations.
The letter cites the outbreak aboard SeaDream 1.
Despite precautions, “the virus was still able to infect multiple people on the ship, with the possibility of more confirmed cases emerging as passengers and crew are retested,” the letter reads.
“Unfortunately, this troubling development is not surprising and reaffirms the need to exercise extreme caution before sending passengers and crew back out to sea on cruises.”
Joe Biden wins the 2020 US Presidential election
Following a tense week of vote tallying, Joe Biden won the state of Pennsylvania and vaulted ahead in the race to become the next president of the United States. Biden’s win in the critical state put him over the threshold of 270 electoral votes, cutting off all avenues for his opponent.
Biden prevailed by flipping key states that went to Trump in 2016, including Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Trump again won in Florida and Ohio, but in the end was unable to chart a path to an electoral victory. Biden also leads by millions in the popular vote, with a record number of votes cast this year, many through the mail.
As his vice president, Kamala Harris will make history in myriad ways, becoming the first woman — and the first woman of color — to occupy the office. Harris, a California senator and the state’s former attorney general, built a career in the tech industry’s front yard.
Shattered barriers aside, this year’s election will likely go down in infamy for many in the U.S. The race was the strangest in recent years, characterized by rising storms of misinformation, fears over the fate of scaled-up vote-by-mail systems and a deadly virus that’s claimed well over 230,000 American lives. Biden’s campaign was forced to adapt to drive-up rallies and digital campaigning instead of relying on door-knocking and face-to-face interaction to mobilize the vote.
The circumstances of the election also created the perfect ecosystem for misinformation — a situation made worse by President Trump’s false claim of victory early Wednesday morning and ongoing claims of Democratic voter fraud. Trump appears to be in no mood to concede the election, but in the end the vote is what it is and Joe Biden will take office on January 20, 2021.
While a sitting president rejecting that unwritten democratic norm would be alarming, Trump’s decision will have little bearing on the ultimate political outcome. Whatever the coming days hold, the U.S. is entering into a new and unprecedented phase of uncertainty in which misinformation abounds and political tensions and fears of politically-motivated violence are running high.
The former vice president’s win brings a four year run of Trumpism to an abrupt end, though its effects will still reverberate throughout American politics, likely for decades. It also ushers in a new era in which Joe Biden plans to draw on the influence of an unlikely coalition of Democrats from across the political spectrum. The Senate still hangs in the balance with two tight races in Georgia headed to January runoffs.
Biden has laid out plans for sweeping climate action, and a healthcare extension that would cover more Americans and provide an opt-in Medicare-like public option. But his ability to enact most of those grand plans would hinge on a Democratic Senate. While either party was likely to continue pursuing more aggressive regulation for the technology industry, we’ll be watching closely for signals of what’s to come for tech policy.
But even without the Senate, the president-elect may be capable of making a swift and critical impact where it’s most needed: the coronavirus pandemic. In the continued absence of a national plan to fight the virus and a White House that downplays its deadliness and discourages mask-wearing, COVID-19 is raging out of control in states across the country, signaling a very deadly winter just around the corner.
SEAN CONNERY BEST JAMES BOND EVER DEAD AT 90
Sir Sean Connery the first and widely-regarded best James Bond ever … has died.
Sean’s wife says he died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his family. No cause of death was disclosed.
Connery became an enormous star in 1962 with the release of “Dr. No,” but not without difficulty. James Bond creator Ian Fleming felt he was unrefined and wanted someone suave like Cary Grant. Fleming relented and ultimately said it was a great choice.
Sean starred in 7 Bond films between ’62 and ’83. Among the films — “From Russia with Love,” “Goldfinger,” “Thunderball,” “You Only Live Twice,” “Diamonds are Forever,” and “Never Say Never Again.”
Connery had a hard time shaking the Bond character, but was ultimately successful …. branching out and ultimately winning an Oscar playing an Irish cop in “The Untouchables.” He also won 2 Bafta awards and 3 Golden Globes. He was knighted by the Queen in 2000.
When Sean was shooting “Never Say Never Again,” he took martial arts classes and got into it with the instructor who then broke his wrist. Sean didn’t get it treated for years … not knowing it was really broken. The instructor — Steven Seagal.
Among Sean’s other films … “The Hunt for Red October,” “Indiana Jones” “The Last Crusade” and “The Rock.”
Most fans give Sean the title of best 007 ever … at least in the polls. And, speaking of polls, he also holds a Sexiest Man Alive crown. He also once finished third in the Mr. Universe contest back in 1953.
Fun fact … Sean wore a toupee in “Goldfinger” because his hair had started to thin.
Sean’s survived by his second wife, Micheline Roquebrune, and his son, Jason Connery. There will be a private funeral, followed by a memorial once COVID ends.
Sean was 90. RIP
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