No fewer than 27 people have been killed after a gunman opened fire at a church during Sunday services in United States (U.S.), the police have said.
The attack happened at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a small town in Wilson County, Texas.
Police official Albert Gamez Jr confirmed the number of fatalities to CBS News saying the gunman, who is reported to have been killed in the aftermath, entered the church and opened fire at around 11:30 local time (17:30 GMT).
“The details are kind of sketchy but what I know right now, what they’re telling me, like 27 deceased and over 20, 25 injured,” Mr Gamez Jr said.
“They’re talking about the shooter is dead also,” he added.
About 50 people usually attend the service, locals said. Local media outlets reported that children were among the dead.
Donald Trump, who is on a five-country tour in Asia, tweeted: “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.”
Witnesses close to the small church reported hearing a rapid barrage of about 20 shots.
The pastor of First Baptist, Frank Pomeroy, and his wife were said to be out of town on Sunday and not present when the shooting happened.
First responders converged on the small town of around 400 people. Television stations KSAT and KENS reported a large police presence. A sheriff’s department dispatcher said everyone was at the scene and was unavailable to comment.
KSAT reported that two Airlife helicopters were at the scene and broadcast video of several fire and police vehicles at the church and a photograph of a helicopter that the station said was arriving to take victims to hospitals.
Meanwhile, the gunman has been identified as Devin Kelley.
Reports say Kelley was later found dead in his car after fleeing the scene, though investigators are still working to determine whether or not it was the result of a self-inflicted wound.
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek, said Kelley served from 2010 until 2014 and worked in the logistics readiness department at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
The 26-year-old Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 on charges of assault on his spouse and on their child and later received a bad conduct discharge, confinement for twelve months as well as a reduction of his military status.
Kelley is from New Braunfels, Texas, and the investigation into his background is ongoing.
The suspect’s Facebook profile appeared to show a recent picture of an AR-15–style gun.
A source at the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told ABC News the agency was searching for explosives at the suspect’s home.
The FBI is also searching the man’s home.
Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said the suspect was wearing all black, including a ballistics vest, at the time of the shooting.
Martin said the suspect was found dead in his truck after running off the road near the county line after fleeing and being fired upon at the church by a resident.
Investigators are unsure whether the resident killed the suspect or he killed himself.
Kelley lived at his parents’ home with his wife and child, according to neighbour Mark Moravitz.