Rosanne Solis and Joaquin Ramirez, an elderly couple who survived the carnage, were sitting near the entrance of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs when Devin P. Kelley opened fire at the parishioners, all of who were in the middle of their morning service.
The attack, which killed or injured almost 8 percent of the town’s total population, prompted the elderly survivors to drop to the floor as the other congregants began screaming. As the gunman entered the small wooden building yelling, “Everybody die!” Solis said she saw bullets flying into the carpet and her fellow churchgoers falling down covered in blood.
“I did not want to move,” Solis, a grandmother of four, told Univision news. “If I spoke or if I moved he was going to kill me because he was standing there killing everyone who moved. I played dead and it saved my life.”
Kelley then began making rounds, killing survivors. The survivors said it felt like he was particularly targeting children — who make up about half of his total victims.
“It was like he had a hatred for the children,” Solis said.
Her husband, Ramirez, agreed with her statement.
“When they yelled he would riddle them [with bullets] like an animal,” he added.
Kelley had a history of domestic violence was court-martialed from the Air Force in 2012 after being convicted of fracturing his baby stepson's skull and assaulting his first wife.
Authorities reportedly collected at least 15 empty magazines at the scene of the carnage, suggesting the shooter fired at least 450 rounds. One of those bullets also hit Solis in the shoulder.
“I was holding her under the pew,” Ramirez, who was also injured, recalled. “I covered her and she said, ‘Leave me, save your life.’ And I said to God, ‘My God, save us because I do not want to die.’”
The couple said they stayed there, unmoving and pretending to be dead, until a man named Stephen Willeford ran out of his house and began shooting at Kelley, forcing him to flee on a high-speed chase that ended in his death.
Meanwhile, Solis told the local news channel she won’t be returning to the church.
“I don't blame the Lord. I will always have my faith. But I won’t go to that church no more. I’m scared. From here on, I am going to study at home,” Solis explained. “This world is full of so much anger.”
Another Sutherland Springs native, David Brown, told CBS affiliate KENS-TV, how his 73-year-old mother thought she was going to die when Kelley entered her pew.
“The shooter was making his rounds, and he ended up there and started shooting this lady multiple times,” Brown told the station. “And the lady looked at my mom the whole time, and my mom was looking at her and telling her, 'It's OK, you're going to go to heaven. You're going to go to heaven,' and then she knew it was her turn to be shot, and so she just started praying that God would take her soul to heaven.”
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Rick Wilking