At least 20 people have been reported dead in America’s latest mass shooting, which took place inside a small church in a quiet Texas town.
The attack happened during a Sunday service at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a community of 400 people about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio.
Witnesses said the gunman walked into the church shortly before noon in “full gear” and opened fire, also injuring more than 20 people. A two-year-old child was reportedly among the wounded.
He then got in a vehicle and drove away and there was a short chase as police pursued him. Witnesses said that was followed by a foot chase.
Police said the killer had been “taken down” and was dead, although it was not immediately clear if he was shot by officers or killed himself.
President Donald Trump, who is on a trip to Asia, wrote on Twitter: “May God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI and law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan.”
Sunday services at the small white church are usually attended by about 50 people, local residents said.
The exact number of people killed was not immediately clear.
Wilson County Commissioner Paul Pheil said: “I would say it’s up there around 20-plus, I’m not sure.”
Another Wilson County Commissioner Albert Gamez Jr said he had been told by emergency workers the death toll was 27.
Mr Gamez told CNN: “The details are kind of sketchy but what I know right now, what they’re telling me, it’s like 27 deceased and over 20, 25 injured.
“My heart is broken on this. You never think this can happen but it can, it doesn’t matter where you’re at. Look at what can happen. It’s a tragic day, massive.”
He added: “The gunman took off. They were in a pursuit. They told me he’s deceased, I don’t know if he shot himself or not.
“It’s a small community, small church, real nice community. Man, you never expect something like this. We don’t know what would inspire a guy to start shooting like that.
“I got a call and they told me there was a big scene going on with a lot of shooting. The details are sketchy, we’re trying to find out what’s gone on.”
One witness, a cashier at a petrol station over the road from the church, said she heard dozens of shots being fired in rapid succession while the church service was going on.
Carrie Matula said: “We heard semi-automatic gunfire. We’re only about 50 yards away from this church. This is a very small community so everyone was very curious as to what was going on.”
Dana Fletcher, a nearby shopkeeper, said: “It’s a little church in a very small community, I don’t know why it would be targeted. It’s a very tight knit community. People all know each other.”