At least 26 people dead in Texas church mass shooting

Donald Trump says the shooting is a "mental health" problem

At least 26 people dead in Texas church mass shooting

Investigators work at the scene of a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas | Image: Jay Janner/AP/Press Association Images

At least 26 people have been killed after a gunman opened fire with an assault rifle at a church in Texas, with the youngest victim just five years old.

The lone suspect, who was wearing black tactical gear and a ballistic vest, targeted the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs - 30 miles southeast of San Antonio.

Devin Kelley - who served in the US Air Force - struck while worshippers gathered for a Sunday service.

Witnesses reported hearing around 20 shots as the massacre unfolded, the worst in Texas history.

The victims range in age from five to 72 and include the 14-year-old daughter of the church's pastor, who is out of town along with his wife.

Twenty others have been injured.

"Fortunately somebody else had a gun"

US President Donald Trump has described the shooting as an "act of evil" which targeted victims in their place of "sacred worship".

"Our hearts are broken but in dark times, and these are dark times, such as these, Americans do what they do best," Mr Trump said, who is currently in Japan as part of a 12-day visit to Asia.

"Mental health is your problem here - this was a very, based on preliminary reports, a very deranged individual.

"A lot of problems over a long period of time.

"We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries.

"But this isn't a guns situation - I mean we could go into it, it's a little bit soon to go into it.

"But fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it would have been... much worse".

"This is a mental health problem at the highest level - it's a very, very sad event".

US President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo | Image: Kiyoshi Ota/AP/Press Association Images

"We are dealing with the largest mass shooting in our state's history," Texas Governor Greg Abbott said.

"The tragedy is of course worsened by the fact that it occurred in a church, a place of worship where these people were innocently gunned down."

After the shooting Kelley (26) was fired on by a resident and fled the scene in his car. He was later found dead in a neighbouring county with several weapons in his vehicle.

It is not clear if he killed himself or was hit by gunfire from the resident who confronted him, authorities said.

Texas Gov Greg Abbott participates in a candlelight vigil for the victims of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas | Image: Darren Abate/AP/Press Association Images

"We have no motive"

Authorities have yet to give a motive for the shooting.

"We don't think he had any connection to this church," Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told CNN. "We have no motive."

A US official said Kelley lived in a suburb of San Antonio and did not appear to be linked to any terror groups.

The US Air Force said he served in the Logistics Readiness unit from 2010 until being discharged four years later for bad conduct after being court martialed on one count of assault on his spouse and another count of assault on their child.

Investigators are examining posts he may have made on social media in the days before the shooting, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon.

Kelley's Facebook page has been deleted, but cached photos include one of what appeared to be an assault rifle with the caption: "she's a bad b****".

The Irish ambassador to the US, Dan Mulhall said he was "shocked and saddened" over the killings:

 

Any Irish people requesting consular assistance are being advised to the consulate in Austin: