HOUSTON: The massacre of 26 worshippers at a church has devastated Sutherland Springs, a small Texas town where "everybody knew everybody", with the incident wiping out about four percent of the town's population.
At least eight members of the same family were among the 26 people killed yesterday when a man armed with an assault rifle burst into the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church and and started firing.
The mass shooting left about 20 others wounded in the small town of Sutherland Springs, about 48 km east of San Antonio city.
The massacre killed about four per cent of the town's population. And no one at church was left unscathed, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said without giving the population of the rural town.
"I think nearly everyone had some type of injury," the sheriff told reporters today.
The unincorporated community has a population of 362 according to the 2000 census, the New York Times reported, quoting the Texas State Historical Association. The preliminary death toll would amount to about seven per cent of that population, it said.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott called the slaughter "the largest mass shooting" in the state's history and ordered flags to fly at half-staff across the state.
The gunman has been identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, US media reports said.
Hours after the shooting, residents of Sutherland Springs hugged one another, held candles and sang hymns in a vigil last night.
Sutherland Springs is the kind of place where "everybody knows everybody," said Gloria Rodriguez Ximenez, who attended the vigil.
"This is a small, Christian town, a very small community," she said. "Everybody's united. Everybody's so close to everybody." She knows the First Baptist Church's pastor and his family, including their daughter who died.
"I can feel the pain everybody's going through. There's so much hurt for a small town," Ximenez was quoted as saying by CNN.
While police have not officially named Kelley as the shooter. They described the gunman as a white man in his 20s.
Authorities have not said what the motive was.
Kelley was a member of the US Air Force and served at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge, according to Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.
Kelley was court-martialled in 2012 for assault on his spouse and assault on their child, according to Stefanek.
Kelley served a year in confinement and received a bad conduct discharge, Stefanek said. His rank was also reduced, she said.