These Are The Victims Of The Texas Church Shooting
At least 26 people died after a man opened fire during a Sunday service in a small church in rural Sutherland Springs, Texas. Here are their stories.
At least 26 people were killed Nov. 5 after a gunman opened fire during a Sunday service at First Baptist Church in rural Sutherland Springs, Texas, making it the deadliest shooting in the state's history.
Those killed in the church ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years old. Authorities also included the unborn fetus of a pregnant woman in the death toll, per state fetal homicide law. The woman also died.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the child's sex was unknown and they would have been named "Carlin Brite" or "Billy Bob" Holcombe.
The gunman has been identified as 26-year-old Devin P. Kelley, who was found dead inside his vehicle after it veered off the road while being pursued by two men.
The victims have been described as "beautiful people" who loved their church and religion, and left behind children, grandchildren, and siblings. A 16-year-old was hoping to be an NICU nurse; a pregnant mother died along with three of her five children; and another mother died shielding her children from gunfire.
Here is what we know so far about them:
Peggy Lynn Warden, 56
Peggy Lynn Warden was fatally wounded protecting her grandson, Zachary Poston, stepping in front of the 18-year-old after the gunman opened fire in the church, according to a GoFundMe campaign created by Poston's great-aunt, Korri Scheel Stevens.
“She is our hero,” Stevens wrote. “She saved Zachary's life.”
Warden was a volunteer teacher at the Sutherland Springs First Baptist church, according to local media, and had previously cared for her husband, who died of lung cancer in June.
"My sister spent her whole life working at the church," Warden's brother, Jimmy Stevens, told the San Antonio Voice. "It was always her goal to serve and teach children the word of God. There was nothing she would have rather done. And she served people basically her whole life."
Keith Allen Braden, 62
Keith Allen Braden, 62, did not survive the shooting, his brother Bruce Braden told ABC News. His wife, Debbie, had attended the church service with him and is currently recovering from three gunshot wounds.
The couple and their three adult children were all regulars at the church, Bruce Braden said. One of their children was grazed in the head during the attack, and a granddaughter was shot in the hip, according to local media reports.
In a Facebook post, Bruce Braden wrote that his brother had "fought off cancer in recent years."
Annabelle Pomeroy, 14
Annabelle Pomeroy was attending Sunday service at her father's church. Her father, Pastor Frank Pomeroy, was on his way back from Oklahoma when his daughter died, he told ABC News.
Annabelle “was one very beautiful, special child,” Pomeroy told the station. The 14-year-old was his youngest daughter.
Her mother, Sherri, was also out of town and texted the Associated Press that she lost her daughter “and many friends” in the shooting. She has updated her Facebook profile picture to a photograph of her daughter, and friends and family members have posted on it to share their condolences and memories.
"She was a sweet girl and will be missed by all," Helen Biesenbach commented.
"We will always remember that beautiful smile," another person said.
"She was an angel in the flesh," Annabelle's uncle, Scott Pomeroy, told BuzzFeed News. He also posted a tribute on Facebook. "Heaven truly gained a real beautiful angel this morning along with many more," he wrote. "I lost a lot of friends and family this morning but that just means Jesus needed them more. I know all that have taken their last breath of dirty air and took their first breath of heavenly air with new bodies with no pain and suffering."
Joann Ward, 30, and her daughters Brooke Ward, 5, and Emily Garcia, 7
Joann Ward, a 30-year-old mother of four, reportedly died trying to shield her children from the gunman's shooting spree Sunday inside the Texas church. One of her daughter's, five-year-old Brooke Ward died in the attack, and another, seven-year-old Emily Garcia, died at the hospital, officials said Wednesday.
Ward's father, Bob Lookingbill, said that two of her other children survived because their mother died saving them.
“When the shooting in the church began, she shoved her oldest daughter out of the way and fell on top of her three other babies to protect them from the bullets,” Lookingbill told the Washington Post. “She would do it again. She wouldn’t want to remain in this world without her children.”
Rihanna Ward, 9, said that her mother "pushed her down when she saw the shooter open fire," according to a Facebook post by her friend, Vonda Greek Smith.
"I didn't get shot because I was hiding and momma covered Emily, Ryland, and Brooke," the girl said, according to Smith.
Lookingbill said on Facebook that the nine-year-old, who he said is here because of her mother, "has a long road to recovery ahead of her, just from seeing the carnage unfold around her."
Ward’s son, five-year-old Ryland, was shot several times, including in the stomach and groin, and remains in stable condition at a local hospital. Lookingbill said the little boy faces a long, arduous recovery and still has "numerous surgeries" ahead of him.
"Joann’s motto she always lived by - such a joyful, young, vibrant woman... Joann’s whole world - her babies... beautiful, sweet Joann... Joann & her hubby Chris... Joann and little Brookie, glowing as usual, doing what she did best, mothering," Smith continued in her tribute.
Friends on Facebook described Ward as a loving mother and "beautiful person." Photos show her playing with her children and taking selfies with her daughters.
"Never possible to be having too much fun with my babies," she commented on one photograph. "I love making good memories with them."
Michael Ward, Joann's brother-in-law, heard the bullets ringing from the church on Sunday and ran to wake up his brother, Joann's husband. Chris Ward had worked a late shift the night before and stayed home from the service that morning, Ward told the Dallas Morning News. Michael Ward carried Ryland, from the building.
Michael Ward said he wasn't sure if Ryland would survive as the children were all sitting in the back of the church and were the first whom the shooter encountered when he entered the building.
"The kids were all in the back," Michael Ward told BuzzFeed News. "Because they had just come in from Sunday school. All of 'em in the back."
Her voice breaking, Susan Ward described her granddaughter Emily as "a sweet little girl."
"She was just such a good little girl. She was so helpful. She would help. Anything you asked her to do, she was always happy and cheerful," Ward said Sunday on MSNBC.
Emily died Sunday after four hours of surgery, Ward's uncle, John Alexander, said in a Facebook post. He set up a GoFundMe account to help the family, writing, "Joann was the most wonderful mom any child could wish for and her children were always laughing and just loving life."
"I can't remember ever being more sad than this day," Alexander said.
The Holcombe family
Crystal Holcombe, 36, and three of her children, Emily Hill, 11, Megan Hill, 9, and Greggory Hill, 13
Crystal Holcombe was getting ready to hear her father-in-law, Bryan Holcombe, lead the small congregation in worship Sunday when the gunman entered and began shooting. The 36-year-old, who was pregnant, died in the attack along with three of her five young children, Megan Hill, 9; Emily Hill, 11; and Greg Hill, 13.
The mom-to-be had already picked out a name for her baby, though it "was too soon to tell" if it was a boy or girl, her husband, John Holcombe, said on Facebook Wednesday.
"We have a name for our baby, who died in the womb. Carlin Brite 'Billy Bob' Holcombe. This includes Crystal's pick for a girl, a boy, and the nickname the kids gave the baby," he wrote, explaining that his wife was "very thoughtful" when she chose these names.
"Carlin means small champion. It also sounds like Karla, Carolyn, and Charles.
'Billy Bob' is the nickname the kids gave the baby," he went. on.
Authorities have included the unborn baby in the death toll.
Both Bryan Holcombe, and his wife, Karla Holcombe, also died in the attack.
Crystal Holcombe was a widow and married John Holcombe in 2012, according to Facebook and family members. They were expecting their first child together.
She home-schooled her children and regularly shared their accomplishments in bake-offs, archery competitions, and events with the local 4-H youth organization. A month ago, she posted photos showing three of her daughters in front of stacks of baked goods, at a fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
"These guys have been baking all day. Snickerdoodles, banana bread, and pumpkin bread - don't miss out!," she wrote. On Halloween, she shared photos from the church's fall festival and of her children's costumes.
The day before the shooting, she wrote about how "proud" she was of her daughters, Emily and Megan, and their recent success in a food show. "The girls participated in their first 4H Food show & food challenge today! They've worked hard and learned so much, I'm very proud of them both!" she wrote. "Emily got 3rd in her category, and Megan placed 1st in hers. Moving on to district! Emily's food challenge team did a great job, it was a new experience for all of them but they did so well!"
She often posted about motherhood and recipes she wanted to try.
"You are one of the greatest mom's I know Crystal! I so admire you," one of her friends wrote on a post. "I watched you mother 5 young children at such a young age, all while you grieved so deeply and you just soared!"
John Holcombe, who teaches Sunday school and runs the audio for the church's services, was injured in the leg. He would post his themes for the Sunday school lessons the night before on Facebook, and on Saturday wrote that Sunday's "lesson is about Manna from Heaven - found in Exodus 16."
Their daughter Evelyn Hill, age 6, was taken to University Hospital and is in stable condition, according to KSAT.
"Thank you all for your love, prayers, and support. Philip, Evelyn, and myself thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Please continue to pray for us in the coming days / weeks / months as we work through all of the issues," John Holcombe said on Facebook. "I ask for prayers for health, healing, guidance, wisdom, discernment, understanding, protection, and God's will in our decisions and in our lives. Also please keep our Church family in your prayers."
John Bryan, 60, and Karla, 58, Holcombe
Beloved grandparents and local volunteers Karla and John Bryan Holcombe (who goes by Bryan on Facebook) were named by their children and family friends as among those killed. Bryan Holcombe was filling in for Pastor Frank Pomeroy, who was out of town.
Speaking outside of the Connally Memorial Medical Center in the hours immediately following the incident, two of the couple’s children — Scott Holcombe, 30, and Sarah Slavin, 33 — expressed their shock and disbelief.
"I'm dumbfounded," Scott told the New York Times. "This is unimaginable. My father was a good man, and he loved to preach. He had a good heart."
His sister said their parents had "a strong faith, so there is comfort in that. I feel like my parents, especially my mom, wasn't scared."
The couple, who were married for more than two decades, were regular attendees of the church. They owned and worked in a canvas repair shop in Floresville, Texas, before their retirement.
Karla is reported to have volunteered at a prison and taught Sunday school classes. Nick Uhlig, who knew the family through his cousin's marriage to one of the Holcombes' children, told the Associated Press that Bryan also volunteered, and would go to prisons and sing with a ukulele to inmates.
Photos of their grandchildren cover the couple's Facebook profiles. A proud grandfather, Bryan Holcombe's profile pictures show him holding and cuddling with his young grandchildren at family functions, fairs, and at parks.
“Grandkids!!! I am the richest man in the world :)” he wrote on one photo showing about a dozen young children smiling and sitting on a statue. “I’ll wake up at night and, in prayer, thank God for each of them . . . it takes a while:-)”
The couple’s friend Jenna Brown, who met them at First Baptist Church Floresville, said they were “loving people.” She told the Daily Beast: “They were about as close to a true life of Christ as you could get.”
Marc Daniel Holcombe, 36, and his daughter, Noah, 18-months
Bryan and Karla's son, Marc Daniel Holcombe, was shot and killed in the attack along with his 18-month-old daughter, Noah, multiple outlets reported.
Holcombe, who went by Danny, worked as a mechanic at F&W Electrical in the nearby town of Floresville, the New York Times reported. Holcombe, known as "MacGyver," worked 10- to 12-hour days and could fix practically anything, employees told the Times.
He was serious about his religion, Jennifer Kincaid told the newspaper, and often pulled up and read Bible verses from an app on his phone.
Holcombe's daughter, Noah, had dressed as a pumpkin for Halloween. He and his wife had been trying to have a baby for years, Kincaid said. When they finally got pregnant, his wife “quit her job and devoted her life to having that baby and being a mom.”
Lula Woicinski White, 71
The gunman in the church massacre shot and killed his grandmother-in-law, Lula Woicinski White, during Sunday's service, according to multiple outlets and social media accounts.
Devin Kelley was married to White's granddaughter, Danielle Shields, records show. White also posted a photo of her granddaughter, as well as multiple pictures with her own daughter, 54-year-old Michelle Fields.
Investigators said that Kelley, 26, had been involved in a "domestic situation" and had been texting his mother-in-law "threatening" messages before the attack.
Ann Montgomery, a family friend of the Shieldses' and Whites', wrote on Facebook that Danielle used to go to the small, tight-knit church. "She was part of our youth group. Her parents and grandmother went there. We think he was targeting them. They had a lot of problems with him."
The 71-year-old was an active member of the Baptist church, where she died on Sunday, and a devout Christian, often posting about and sharing its events, as well as Bible verses. In 2013, she shared a photograph of herself hugging Pastor Frank Pomeroy's son, writing about how she missed him now that he was in college.
In July, White shared a photo of a fishing trip she took with her grandson, David, writing that the two "had a great time...made great memories..fishing..swimming pool..billards...ping pong...waves in port a...more of all before mentioned...kid kept me busy!!! Lol."
"My sister was a wonderful, caring person — a God-loving person. She loved the people in her church. They were all her best friends," her sister, Mary Mishler Clyburn, told the Daily News.
White's family members and friends posted their remembrances on social media, recalling how she always had a "smile on her face," as well as their heartbreak and disbelief.
"I have no doubt where she is right now. She is in heaven laying her crowns and jewels at the feet of Jesus and celebrating. I love and will miss you Aunt Lula Woicinski White," wrote her niece, Amy Backus.
Another niece, Charity Sales, posted several times that "she just can't believe this," and called the massacre a "horrific act."
"Aunt Lula Woicinski White will be missed greatly, I don’t think there was ever a time I saw her she didn’t have a smile on her face and a crazy fun tactic up her sleeve," she said.
Haley Krueger, 16
Haley Krueger had dreams of becoming an NICU nurse and was described as a "beautiful, vibrant teenager" who "loved babies" and was "excited about the bright future ahead of her," Tasha Niemann Wiatrek, a family friend, wrote.
The 16-year-old was "doing what so many of you do on Sunday mornings," Wiatrek continued in a GoFundMe campaign.
“Haley loved life and was the most dramatic person," her mother, Charlene Uhl, said.
Her brother, Chandler, remembered his little sister on Facebook, writing, "R.I.P little sister we love you with all my heart and I will miss you Soo much."
Robert, 51, and Shani, 51, Corrigan
Robert Corrigan, an Air Force veteran, and his wife, Shani, were high school sweethearts who had moved to rural Texas from Michigan several years ago.
The couple, who graduated from Harrison High School in Farmington Hills, Michigan, lived in Floresville, Texas, according to Facebook, and had two sons on active duty in the military. The Corrigans were friends with several of the victims from the Holcombe family, as well as Kelley's mother-in-law, Michelle Fields.
“This is a huge tragedy, not only for the family, for this small town,” Renee Haley, director of Veterans Services for Clare County, said in a statement.
Last November, the Corrigans held a funeral for their 25-year-old son, Forrest, at the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church, the Detroit Free Press reported, the same church where they were gunned down nearly a year later.
Robert Corrigan loved music and held the two-mile track record at his high school for about 25 years, friends recalled on social media.
"Bob loved playing guitar for the church music ministry more than anything else — and was likely doing that when him and Shani were killed," David Roll wrote on Facebook. "I feel blessed to have known them both."
"Rest in Peace Robert and Shani Corrigan. You were taken from this place well before your time. I will always fondly remember our conversations about life. May your family find peace and comfort in their faith at this time," said Billy Wolff.
Angela Teague Herron posted an emotional tribute to Robert Corrigan, who she said "believed in me when no one else did."
Tara Elyse McNulty, 33
Tara McNulty took her two children, Hailey and James, to the church service Sunday. They survived the shooting and have a long road to recovery, Kevin Koenen, owner of the Aumont Saloon where McNulty worked as a bartender, wrote on Facebook.
"This is a huge loss," Koenen said. "Tara was a very kind-hearted person and a great employee."
On her Facebook, McNulty shared photos of her kids at amusement parks and their school photos. She called her daughter her "mini-me" and posted selfies of them together.
People remembered McNulty as smart and always happy, with a "pure and kind heart."
"She went above and beyond. I cannot day enough positive things about her, the conversations we had and how badly she will be missed," wrote Christie Lewis.
Ricardo (Richard), 64, and Therese Sagan, 66, Rodriguez
Ricardo and Therese, who are known as Richard and Theresa to family and on social medial, Rodriguez married in 2006 and were "amazing" people who loved their church and working in their garden, Richard's daughter, Regina Rodriguez, told People.
Richard Rodriguez attended church every Sunday, his daughter Regina said, and was always the center of attention.
"I'm going to miss him every day, every minute, every second. My heart is breaking. You were the last person I had, and now he's gone," Regina told CNN on Tuesday.
She said the loss of their grandfather had deeply affected her five children.
"The oldest ones, they are the ones that are taking it hard. My — my Julian — especially my Justin, he really looked up to my dad," said Regina Rodriguez.
"My dad is country, so my son will put on his country pants and his boots, and I remember him going around and asking me, 'Where is my hat, mom? Where is my hat?' My dad loved wearing caps, and he would put his glasses sitting on top of his hat, and he would always be standing around the house with his hat and glasses and backpack, and he was so excited and he was waiting for my dad to pull up when he would come on the weekends," explained Rodriguez's daughter.
His sister Evangelina Santos told CNN her brother was a "character."
"He was my best brother. He was so sweet and kind and I loved him so much, and I will miss him a lot. He was always making us laugh," she said.
In a tearful interview with Univision, Richard's sister recalled the frantic, painful hours waiting for news about her brother.
“They told us that there were many people injured. We were praying to God that they were among those injured, just injured, not dead," Santos said. "But around 11 p.m., they delivered the bad news that they were among those that had died. Both of them. It’s very sad. We’re never going to see him again.”
People on social media remembered Richard Rodriguez as a "great man."
"Thank you For Loving Me like a daughter. For being there for me at times when you didn't even know you were," wrote Roxanne Martinez. "To be hugged and comforted by you meant so much to me! Thank you for loving me like one of your own! You have a pure heart of gold you will be missed dearly."
Robert Scott Marshall, 56, and Karen Marshall, 56
Robert Scott Marshall and his wife, Karen, were trying out churches Sunday when the gunman opened fire in the small Sutherland Springs Baptist church, the Associated Press reported.
The couple, who had recently retired and moved to Texas, met when they were both in the military more than 30 years ago, serving in the US Air Force in North Carolina, family members said on Facebook.
The Marshalls were active and traveled often, posting their adventures on Facebook from cafés in North Carolina, mountains in Colorado, and barbecue joints in Tennessee. Known as R. Scott, on Facebook, the 56-year-old had recently joked about introducing his wife to his massive new truck, which he dubbed "Big Blue."
The day before the shooting, R. Scott Marshall shared photos from a trip to an air show in Live Oak, Texas, showing his wife holding one of their young grandchildren and pointing at planes and fighter jets.
"Saturday I saw my old buddy/co worker R Scott Marshall at the air show with his wife, Karen, Son, Brandon Marshall and his family. I was able to capture a few pictures of them," Miguel Martinez posted on Facebook. "I didn't know that was the last time I would shake his hand."
Mike Norton also shared his grief on Facebook, writing that he had known the Mashalls since 1982, "when we served together in the US Airforce in North Carolina."
"A part of me went with them. There family is mine as well, and will be for ever," Norton wrote.
"Scott and Karen loved each other and the Lord. Scott used to find the funny side of any problem," Charlie Meder shared.
A week earlier, R. Scott and his family had happily congregated in Pittsburgh to celebrate his father's upcoming 85th birthday, which was Monday, Nov. 6, the day after the massacre.
“Heck of a birthday present,” Robert Marshall told CBS Pittsburgh. “It’s a shame that you can go pray and be shot up.”
The 85-year-old father is now trying to travel to Texas to be with his three grandchildren and bury his son and daughter-in-law.
Dennis, 77 and Sara Johnson, 68
Sue Harris mourned the loss of her brother, Dennis Johnson, and his wife, Sara, but took comfort in the fact that "God called them home together."
"I do find comfort knowing Dennis and Sara are will the Lord," she wrote on Facebook.
Sara Johnson's Facebook profile said she was a receptionist at Pfeil's Home and Garden Materials and was originally from Jasper, Florida.
Friends recalled in Facebook posts "the great couple" who were "beautiful people" and loved their church.
Other family members expressed their shock and heartbreak.
"Both Dennis and Sara Johnson were some of the best its sad that their lives had to end so tragically," Frank Pence said.
The exact due date of the pregnant woman who died was unknown. An earlier version of this post misstated how many months pregnant she was, using information provided by Texas authorities.