Nine children and teenagers were among the 26 people who died at the First Baptist Church in outherland Springs, Texas, according to a list of identities released by authorities on Wednesday, Nov. 8.
Paul Brunner, a medic, arrived at the scene in an ambulance and witnessed the chaos. Parents and children cried and screamed, he said. And everyone looked like they were hit more than once.
“Our inclination is to protect children. The thing is, that wasn’t his inclination,” Brunner told The Associated Press about the killer. “He wasn’t separating going: ‘I’m not going to hurt the kids. I’m going to go after whatever adults wronged me.'”
The number of children’s lives taken is the most since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
The gunman walked aisle to aisle, systematically shooting everyone in sight, witnesses report. On his way out, the killer was shot by a bystander and dropped his rifle before getting into his car. A chase ensued after which authorities believe he took his own life with a handgun.
Brunner, the medic, was at lunch with his family when he found out about the shooting.
“You had parents screaming about their kids. They got stuff in front of them that they never imagined they would see in their life,” Brunner said. “Not really a war zone, because at least people in a war know they’re in the middle of a war. This is just hard to describe.”
The nine children and teenagers include an unborn baby. Texas law states that an embryo is considered an individual at the time of fertilization. The church pastor’s 14-year-old daughter was also among those killed.
“There were just so many babies in there. It was a church. It was families,” Torie McCallum, the sister-in-law of Crystal Holcombe, the slain pregnant woman, told CBS. “Watching them take person after person after person out was so heartbreaking.”
McCallum is a volunteer medic. She spent 12 hours on the scene on Sunday. She identified the body of her sister-in-law and her three children: Greg, 13, Emily, 11, and Megan, 9.
Crystal Holcombe’s youngest child, Evelyn, 7, escaped by running to a neighbor’s house.
McCallum said the children’s dad died six years ago. Their mom then married John Holcombe, who the children called dad.
Greg, Evelyn, and Megan did karate, while Emily did archery. Everyone was excited about the new baby and decided to name the child Billy Bob Wigglebottom, regardless of what gender the baby was. They thought it was hilarious.
In the grim list of names released on Wednesday, Nov. 8, Carlin Brite “Billy Bob” Holcombe is listed.
“To see seasoned FBI agents and seasoned paramedics and seasoned law enforcement officers, when you see their eyes red, I feel so awful for all of the people who responded to that scene. Because they should never have to see anything like that, especially with so many children,” McCallum said.
“Seeing the children that were killed. It’s one thing to see an adult, but to see a 5-year-old—that’s tough,” Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said, according to The AP.
Alison Gould, 17, still hopes the hospital made a mistake identifying the body of her best friend Haley Krueger, 16.
“I am trying my best to cope. I want to see her really bad, and it’s kind of hard because I know that I can’t,” Gould told CBS. “Me and her mom keep thinking that maybe she’s in the hospital, and they just identified her wrong. We’re trying really hard.”