Crime & Law

Posted: November 08, 2017

Survivors recount horror of Texas church shooting: 'He shot anyone who got in the way'


By Rob Villalpando, Johnathan Silver and Sebastian Herrera, Austin American-Statesman

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas —

Joaquin Ramirez and Rosanne Solis walked into First Baptist Church on Sunday just minutes before the shots began to ring out.

Ramirez, 50, and Solis, 57, a longtime couple who live in First Baptist’s neighborhood, were sitting in their usual spot — fourth row on the left side — at the small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 people were killed Sunday morning and another 20 were injured.

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The couple had arrived around 11 a.m., when the service began. The church band had played at least one worship song, and church members were beginning weekly announcements. People were still greeting each other, hugging and waving toward one another.

Then Solis and Ramirez heard what sounded like firecrackers.

“That’s when the shots started,” Solis said. “Everybody started running and screaming.”

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The first shots appeared to be coming from the roof, Solis and Ramirez said.

Suddenly, Ramirez felt heat rush up his left ankle. Solis felt the same, but on her left arm. They both dropped to the ground. Ramirez draped his body on top of Solis.

A second round of shots banged from above, then Ramirez and Solis heard First Baptist’s front doors open. The shooter, now identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, was inside.

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He yelled that everyone was going to die, Solis said, and started shooting again.

“I could see his feet moving,” Solis said. “He shot anyone who got in the way. Even babies. It didn’t matter.”

Kelley moved down the middle aisle of the two rows of seating at the church, picking off person by person.

He approached the stage and shot there, too, Ramirez said. At that moment, Ramirez crawled toward the front doors and escaped. He ran to find police.

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Inside, Solis tried to play dead underneath one of the church pews. She opened her eyes briefly and saw blood around her.

After Kelley had shot everyone at the stage, he appeared to move back toward the church doors, Solis said. He continued to fire.

After a few minutes, he appeared to run out of ammunition, Solis said. He dropped two rifles on the ground, she said, and ran out.

Solis was too afraid to move.

“I heard silence,” she said. “Then I heard screaming. Children were screaming. People were screaming.”

>> On Statesman.com: Complete coverage of the Texas church shooting

Solis slowly rose. She looked to her left and saw a young boy on his stomach. He wasn’t moving. She looked behind her and saw a man splattered with blood, his arms waved behind him and his head tilted back. In front of her, a man holding a little girl screamed through tears.

Dozens of people lay on the ground.

“I thought Joaquin was dead,” Solis said.

She picked up her shoes, which had fallen off, slipped them on and walked outside. Police and medical personnel would soon arrive. It had only been about half an hour since service began.

Solis could hardly think straight.

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Later, as she was getting treated for the shot that pierced her left arm, she saw Ramirez approaching her.

Both couldn’t believe that each other had survived.

“We felt nothing but joy,” Ramirez said. “We were alive.”

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