Texas church might be demolished and replaced by memorial after shooting

The pastor of the Texas church where a gunman carried out a massacre has discussed knocking down the building and replacing the structure with a memorial, a spokesman for the national Southern Baptist Convention said Thursday.

The First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, about 35 miles outside San Antonio, has remained closed since gunman Devin Kelley attacked the congregation during worship services Sunday morning. With a death toll of 26, it was the deadliest mass shooting in the modern history of Texas.

Pastor Frank Pomeroy — whose 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was among the dead — told Southern Baptist Convention leaders this week that it would be “perhaps best for the church” to tear down the building, said Roger Oldham, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention.

Pomeroy also suggested an idea to “turn that little small site there on the property into a memorial garden, and construct another worship center” elsewhere on the property, though ultimately the decision will be up to the congregation, Oldham said.

“The church is the people, it’s not the building,” Oldham said. “The church is still in existence, and the people of the church are considering where to worship on Sunday.”

Before the shooting, the church had about 85 to 100 active members who attended services or Sunday Bible school, Oldham said. In addition to the deaths , 20 people were wounded. Many of the victims were children.

Pomeroy and his wife were out of town during the attack.

On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence visited Texas to console victims of the shooting and their families, and he praised their faith. “This evil must come to an end in this land,” Pence said of the shooting, adding, “Faith is stronger than evil.”

It’s common for the sites of mass shootings to be demolished or converted into memorials.

Officials have announced that the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino hotel room used during the Oct. 1 massacre of 58 people in Las Vegas will never see another guest. The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., where 49 people were killed on June 12, 2016, was shuttered, and the owner announced plans to open a club in another location and convert the site into a museum.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where 26 young students and adults were killed in 2012, was demolished and replaced with a new building that opened in 2016.

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., reopened for Sunday services just days after a gunman killed nine parishioners during a Wednesday Bible study session.

matt.pearce@latimes.com

Matt Pearce is a national reporter for The Times. Follow him on Twitter at @mattdpearce.

More national headlines

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
67°