Within the walls of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., on Sunday morning, gathered as always, were three generations of the Holcombe family.

Bryan Holcombe was walking up to the pulpit, preparing to lead the congregation in worship, when a gunman identified by officials as Devin Kelley, began to spray bullets at the worshipers.

Holcombe, an associate pastor for the church, was killed in the gunfire, his parents, Joe and Claryce Holcombe, said in an interview with The Washington Post.

Bryan Holcombe’s wife of about four decades, Karla Holcombe, was also in church Sunday. She died too, said Joe Holcombe.

Bryan and Karla Holcombe were two of those killed in the shooting Sunday. (Courtesy of Holcombe Family)
Bryan and Karla Holcombe were two of those killed in the shooting Sunday. (Courtesy of Holcombe Family)

Bryan and Karla — high school sweethearts — had a son, Marc Daniel Holcombe, 36. He too was killed, Joe Holcombe said.

Marc Daniel had an infant daughter, named Noah Holcombe, who, according to Joe, was a year old. She is dead, too.

Another son of Bryan and Karla, John Holcombe, is alive, said Joe.

But his wife Crystal Holcombe is dead.

Crystal Holcombe was pregnant. She and the unborn child were both killed.

Crystal had five children. Three of them, Emily, Megan and Greg, died.

She had been at church with her husband, John, who thankfully survived along with two of her children.

That’s eight members of the Holcombe family dead, in addition to the unborn child.

All at once, Joe and Claryce Holcombe lost children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and a future great-grandchild.

The act of violence that claimed lives from generations of their loved ones took place in the space that mattered to them most: their church.

The Holcombes were among the 26 people authorities say died in Sunday’s mass shooting, described by Gov. Greg Abbott as the worst in Texas history.

Joe and Claryce Holcombe first heard about the shooting an hour after it happened, through a phone call from a member of the church they attend, a different Baptist church in nearby Floresville, Tex.

Then, in a conversation with the church’s head pastor, they started to hear the wrenching news.

“He said there was a big shooting and he didn’t say much more than that,” Joe Holcombe, 86, said.

Then, in a conversation with the church’s head pastor, they started to hear the wrenching news.

“Bryan and Karla?” Joe Holcombe asked the church’s pastor.

“They’re both in heaven,” the pastor responded. As the day went on, they would learn of the others.

Joe and Claryce Holcombe said they’re still coming to terms with what happened. The shooter, Joe Holcombe said, is “being rewarded right now for what he did, and for all of eternity.”

But, Claryce added, “we need to pray for his family, because they’re going through a terrible time, too.”

“God will see us through,” Joe Holcombe said. “We’ll all be together soon.”


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