Five days before he entered the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Devin Kelley attended a Halloween festival on the church grounds with his soon-to-be victims, reports the Houston Chronicle. Kelley killed 26 people during a mass shooting at the church on Sunday. In the days that have followed, investigators have tried to pinpoint what set him off.
Among Kelley’s victims was Lula White, the grandmother of Kelley’s wife. Kelley’s mother-in-law Michelle Shields frequently attended services at the church. Kelley may have been targeting her, but she was not present during the shooting.
Photos on Facebook paint an idyllic picture of what life was like for the close-knit congregation at First Baptist Church. Children are seen playing games, fishing in a mock fishing hole and showing off their Halloween costumes. Adults and children have painted faces, and nearly everyone is smiling.
Some of Kelley’s victims, including 8-months-pregnant mother Crystal Holcombe and pastor Bryan Holcombe, are visible in the photos. Crystal is seen posing with her daughters, while Bryan, dressed like a referee, helps some children into a bounce house.
According to the Chronicle, the community was encouraged by Kelley’s presence at the festival, given some recent family strife.
“They thought, ‘Oh, this is good. This is progress,'” Tambria Read, a church congregant and friend of Shields, told the paper.
“This church is very loving, nonjudgmental, and if he had had concerns or issues and spoken with the clergy — they’re nonjudgmental,” Read said.
Read believes that, had Kelley given the church community a chance, they could have saved him.
“They would have helped him deal with his issues and helped him try to get focused,” Read said