Keith Braden, 62
A few years ago, Bruce Braden said, members of his family came together for a reunion. And during that gathering, he noticed his younger brother, Keith, down on the floor, playing a game with Bruce's daughter.
"They just played that for hours, and joked around," Bruce Braden. "Whereas a lot of adults would ignore the kids in a family, he was the one who would play with them and talk with them."
Bruce said that Keith and his wife, Debbie, had three children and that Keith served in the Army and the National Guard. He worked in the dairy department at the H-E-B grocery store; he had been with the company for 22 years. He was a good father, said his brother, strict but loving.
"And he was a very good husband, who loved life, and loved smiling and joking around, and was very good with kids,” Bruce said.
The Indianapolis Star, which reported on Keith's death, said his wife and a granddaughter also suffered injuries during the incident. Bruce told the Star that both were expected to recover.
"I had been watching the story, and noticed that people were trying to Facebook Debbie, message her, asking are you okay, and there was no response on her Facebook page, so that was a concern," Bruce said. "But initially, I thought they had named another town as the location of the shooting. And then they came back to Sutherland Springs. That's when I got concerned."
Keith was not the youngest of the Braden siblings, who grew up in Mount Pleasant, Pa., but a number of years passed before their little sister came along, said Bruce. So that's really how Bruce thought of Keith -- as the baby of the family.
"Keith was someone who had to struggle in school, partially because he was the only left-hander in our family," Bruce said. "And of course, back then, the nuns were trying to convert him to right-handed. And that made things difficult for him to deal with school. But in spite of issues, difficulties, he had with school, he ended up being a very hard worker."
Bruce described his brother's personality as "effervescent" and said he always had a smile.
"It's hard," Bruce said. "I walk around trying not to cry. People want to talk about it at work, and I can't, because I'll start crying and lose it. It leaves, just, a big hole. And sometimes you feel numb and dead inside."
— Sarah Larimer
Robert Corrigan, 51, and Shani Corrigan, 51
Robert and Shani were high school sweethearts, marrying shortly after graduation, said Rodney Corrigan, Robert’s brother. When Robert enlisted in the Air Force, he was stationed near San Antonio early in his career. The couple fell in love with the area and decided to move back upon retirement, Rodney said.
Rodney said his brother was a devout Christian and amateur musician who composed religious hymns and played guitar.
“He dedicated his life to God and his music,” Rodney said in a brief interview. “He has always been very faithful. We went to church three times a week through our whole childhood, and my brother never strayed.”
When she lived in Nebraska, Shani was active in the “women’s ministry” at Chandler Acres Baptist Church. Before Thanksgiving and Christmas, Shani headed up the church’s gift and food basket program for low-income families, said the Rev. Dan Wills Jr., a pastor.
“She provided the food and was also the one who would put it together and made sure families received them,” said Wills, noting the baskets usually contained a turkey, fresh vegetables and pie.
Shani was also well-known within the community for her outreach to children and young adults.
“She treated everybody like they were her kids,” Wills said. “She constantly told me she was praying for our youth at the church and if they needed anything, to let her know and she would find a way to help out…She was not a typical mom but a mom to everybody.”
Shani and Robert were prolific donors to church causes. Many children, Wills said, went to summer camp or educational seminars through scholarships funded by the couple.
After Robert retired, Wills said the couple was eager to return to Texas, including once again becoming active in First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Tex.
“They just always talked about going back there, which was kind of surprising,” Wills said. “Him and I were both Detroit Lions fans, and from Michigan, so it surprised me they didn’t want to go back to Michigan.”
Robert and Shani grew up in Clare County, Mich., according to the Veterans Services office there. Robert, who had been a local track star, joined the Air Force to work in medicine after high school. From October 2012 until his retirement in September 2015, Robert was the superintendent of the 55th Medical Group at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. He retired as a chief master sergeant, the highest enlisted rank in the Air Force.
Two of their sons remain on active duty in the Air Force, the veterans office said in a statement, adding that it was speaking on behalf of family members. Another son died last November at age 25.
— Tim Craig
Bryan Holcombe, 60, and Karla Holcombe, 58
Bryan, an associate pastor for the church, was said to be walking to the pulpit to lead the congregation in worship when the gunman began to fire. According to his parents, the associate pastor had been involved in church work since he was young.
“We knew when he was born that he was going to be a preacher,” Joe Holcombe, his father, told The Washington Post. “His first word was ‘God.’ ”
His first sentence? “See the light.”
Bryan and Karla were high school sweethearts. One day, their school was selling roses, offering to deliver them to the classrooms of admirers. So Bryan delivered a rose to every one of Karla’s classes that day.
“He thought she was cute, and she was,” Joe Holcombe said.
Karla had the “gift of hospitality,” her mother-in-law said. She had planned on hosting the family’s Thanksgiving.
On his Facebook page, Bryan is shown hoisting his grandchildren on his shoulders, dressing up in costumes for church events and playing his ukulele. He would often play and sing for prison inmates, a relative told the Associated Press.
“Grandkids, it doesn’t get any better!” Bryan wrote on Facebook on one photo of his many grandchildren. “I’ll wake up at night and, in prayer, thank God for each of them . . . it takes a while:-)”
Bryan and Karla lived near his parents, between Floresville and Sutherland Springs. He ran a business on his parents’ farm, making tarps for cattle trailers, Joe Holcombe said.
— Samantha Schmidt
Crystal Holcombe, 36; Greg Hill, 13; Emily Hill, 11; Megan Hill, 9
Crystal was at church with her husband, John. Three of her children — Emily, Megan and Greg — were also killed. She was pregnant; the unborn child was also killed.
Rojean Staggs, 66, of Floresville said she had rented an apartment to Crystal and described her as a sweet and natural mother to a large brood.
"Crystal was a breath of fresh air. She loved children," Staggs said, describing a woman who seemed to navigate easily between children with different, competing needs without ever seeming flustered. "She had a full house and just seemed to take to it beautifully." Staggs said Crystal had been married to her husband, John, for just a few years. Staggs said Crystal lost her first husband to cancer.
Crystal home-schooled her five children and was heavily involved in the church, like the rest of the family. On her Facebook page, she reported proudly on her children’s successes in competitions for their local 4-H and wrote about a recent bake sale, benefiting families affected by Hurricane Harvey.
"The girls participated in their first 4H Food show & food challenge today!" read a post dated Nov. 4. "They've worked hard and learned so much, I'm very proud of them both!" The post included photos of two girls, one holding a red plate, and the other seated, grinning.
Another post, from late October, noted that Emily had taken part in a 4-H archery competition. Photos included in that Facebook post showed a girl holding a medal, smiling.
— Samantha Schmidt and Abigail Hauslohner
Marc Daniel Holcombe, 36; Noah Holcombe, 1
Marc Daniel Holcombe, who went by Danny, wasn’t much of a chatterbox -- except when he had a new photo or video of his young daughter, Noah, said Jennifer Kincaid, human resources manager at F&W Electrical Contractors.
Danny was a hard worker and had worked as a mechanic at the business for more than a decade before his death, Kincaid said.
“If you would go to the back shop where the mechanics were at, he would always be working," Kincaid said. "The only thing, like I said, that he would stop working for was to tell you about his daughter. Because he was very proud of her."
Kincaid remembered Danny as a generous and caring co-worker, and as a clever and talented mechanic, noting that he used to whip up woodworking projects for her and could fabricate machines and equipment.
"We would be out on job sites and people would ask us, 'Where'd you get that?' " Kincaid said. "And Danny had made it. He would just make all sorts of things that you couldn't buy."
Kincaid said she saw Danny on Friday evening, as she was returning to work. He stopped her and mentioned that he thought a fog light on her car was out. He told her that he'd take a look at it for her, she said.
"A lot of times we could call him MacGyver, because he could fix anything," Kincaid said.
Danny was a son of Bryan and Karla Holcombe, who were also killed.
Danny’s daughter, Noah, and wife, Jenni, had fairly recently begun to visit the business on Thursdays, Kincaid said. They'd come by to eat lunch with Danny, and then the family would take Noah around.
"I think that's why everyone around here is taking it so hard, knowing that even Noah's gone," Kincaid said. "She was just up here on Thursday, getting Halloween candy from people and playing on our desks." Noah was a friendly, vibrant child with big blue eyes and blonde hair, Kincaid said.
"They wanted a baby really bad," Kincaid said. "And they tried really hard to have her."
After her birth in May 2016, Noah had spent time in a neonatal intensive care unit but had grown to be so strong and healthy. "One of the mechanics was telling me, she was just giving him a kiss last Thursday," Kincaid said. "She's so sweet. Very curious. Just full of life."
— Sarah Larimer
Dennis Johnson, 77; Sara Johnson, 68
Dennis and Sara Johnson were married for 44 years, and were members of the Sutherland Springs church for 11 years, family members said in an online page. Dennis Neil Johnson Sr., born in Rockford, Ill., was a veteran the U.S. Navy, where he served as a Seabee — or construction battalion trained to defend himself if he came under fire — during the Gulf War. He was also a veteran of the Army National Guard and a member of the American Legion, according to the GoFundMe page. Sara Louise Johns Johnson was born in Jasper, Fla. She worked at the Wilson County Tax Office for more than 10 years, and was most recently worked at Pfeil's Home and Garden in Floresville, Tex. She spent more than 30 years volunteering at a church nursery. Dennis and Sara had six children and several grandchildren, according to the GoFundMe page. They were expecting four great-grandchildren at the time of their death. The family is prepared to issue a statement on Sara’s and Dennis’s deaths late Wednesday.
— Marwa Eltagouri
Haley Krueger, 16
This is not the first time tragedy befell Haley’s family. Her father died of pancreatic cancer in October 2015, leaving behind Haley and her three siblings.
“Haley loved life and was the most dramatic person,” her mother, Charlene Uhl, said in a GoFundMe campaign set up by a family friend. She dreamed of becoming a nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit.
Haley’s older brother, Chandler Krueger, wrote on Facebook on Monday, “R.I.P little sister we love you with all my heart and I will miss you Soo much.”
— Colby Itkowitz
Karen Marshall, 56 and Scott Marshall, 56
It was Scott and Karen’s first time at the church Sunday. The couple had been living in different states, but finally, Karen would be soon retiring from the Air Force. So Scott went to help her pack up and move from the Washington area to Texas, said his father, Robert Marshall. On the way, they stopped in Pennsylvania to spend time with Scott’s family and celebrate Robert’s 85th birthday.
“Oh, what a good son I had,” he said Monday night. The couple was religious and went to Bible study.
Scott grew up in Hopewell, Pa., and joined the Air Force after high school. Karen lived in Nevada before joining the Air Force, Robert said. Most recently, Karen finished a posting at Joint Base Andrews and Scott, retired from the Air Force, was working as a civilian contractor and mechanic at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, according to TribLive.
The couple met when they were in the Air Force decades ago and have a family of multiple children and grandchildren, Robert said, adding that Scott was his only son.
When they got to Texas and unpacked, Scott and Karen went looking for a church. Scott’s younger sister Holly Hannum told TribLive that the couple wanted a Baptist church “that was just 10 minutes from their house.” It was their first time at the First Baptist Church.
When her brother didn’t answer her texts Sunday, Holly knew something was wrong. Scott and Karen’s son rushed over to the church, Robert said. He saw his father’s car there. The family didn’t hear that they were among the 26 dead until 2 a.m. Monday, Robert said.
“That’s the first time they went there, and that’s what happened,” he said.
Keith Hoover, 55, of Las Vegas said that Scott’s quick wit, humor and cheerfulness made it a pleasure to work alongside him for years. Scott would talk to him about religion and his family, but the two last saw each other about eight years ago when Scott worked for United Airlines in San Francisco, he said.
“He’s from Pennsylvania, lived out in San Francisco, and then he moves to some small hole-in-the-wall little town…” he said. “I’m still in shock.”
Holly told The Post in a Facebook message that the family is asking for privacy while they grieve. She added: “They were Christians and great people. Always smiling.”
Robert said he wants to be in Texas with his grandchildren when they go to the morgue this week. So despite complications – he needs an oxygen tank so he can fly – he said he’s making the trip.
“I’m trying to get down there to help my grandkids,” he said. “It could be tough on them.”
— Ellie Silverman
Tara McNulty, 33
After seeing news of the shooting on TV on Sunday night, Amber Maricle texted her best friend, Tara, saying that “the shooting was so close to you” and adding a crying-face emoji, she recounted. Tara never responded.
Monday morning, one of Tara’s close friends in Texas contacted Maricle, 34, to tell her that Tara went to church Sunday morning. “I said, ‘Is she still with us?’ and she said, ‘No,’ ” Maricle said Monday night through tears. “It rips your heart out of your chest.”
The two became friends when Maricle went looking for a home about five years ago in DeRidder, La. She got her home and became best friends with McNulty, the woman who sold it to her. When they lived in the same area, they would hang out on the couch, eat pizza, and watch “Gilmore Girls,” “Pitch Perfect” and other favorites.
“She was like me; she was like my soul sister,” Maricle said. “We could literally finish each other's sentences. It was an immediate bond.” McNulty was a single mother and loved her kids more than anything else, Maricle said. Her kids were wounded in the gunfire, according to both Maricle and Kevin Koenen, Tara’s boss.
McNulty worked part-time at the Aumont Saloon, Koenen wrote in a Facebook message to The Post, but he declined to talk more about her “at this point.” Koenen posted on Facebook about a benefit event Nov. 12 to raise money for funeral and medical expenses.
“Tara was killed in the shooting at the church, her kids were also wounded but pulled through and have a long road to recovery,” he wrote. “This is a huge loss. Tara was very kind hearted person great employee.”
Another friend wrote in a Facebook message to The Post that McNulty had great character but declined to talk over the phone because of her grief.
“Tara was so much more than a friend she was my sister my strength a amazing mom and a good Christian with morals and faith like you dont see today,” Elaina Mendez wrote in a Facebook message.
— Ellie Silverman
Annabelle Pomeroy, 14
Annabelle’s mother and father weren’t at church Sunday, but the shy, perpetually smiling girl with an affinity for motorcycles was surrounded by the church family she’d grown up with.
She was from a family of religious leaders — her father and uncle are pastors.
Her father is the pastor at First Baptist, but Sunday he was traveling with his wife, Sherri.
“We lost more than Belle yesterday, and the one thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement is the fact that Belle was surrounded by her church family that she loved fiercely, and vice versa,” Sherri Pomeroy told reporters at a news conference Monday.
“As senseless as this tragedy was, our sweet Belle would not have been able to deal with losing so much family,” Sherri said.
Cynthia Rangel, a family friend who lives in nearby Stockdale, told The Post that Annabelle “was very quiet, shy, always smiling, and helpful to all.”
Annabelle was the youngest of six children. She turned 14 in October and was a seventh-grader at Briesemeister Middle School. The school superintendent wrote that the school was mourning Belle, “a victim of this senseless crime.”
She was an “angel in the flesh,” her uncle Scott Pomeroy told BuzzFeed.
Later, in a Facebook post, he wrote: “She made being an uncle one [of] the best titles I’ve ever held.”
— Cleve Wootson
Richard, 64, and Therese Rodriguez, 66
Richard and Therese had recently retired from jobs at a railroad-building company, where he had been a foreman and she had been a receptionist. The two married a little over a decade ago, and if they weren’t cutting the grass or working in the garden, they were with their families. Or they were at the church.
Their children recalled parents who worked hard but would drop everything for their kids.
On Saturday mornings, Richard would wake up early and turn on the TV, and he and his daughter Regina would watch “Soul Train” together. On Friday nights, they would dance and act silly, always ending the night with “Heat Wave” by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. They would all try to sing the long, drawn-out part at the end, and Richard would end up choking, sputtering as the note faded to make them laugh.
He liked to watch the first Dallas Cowboys game of the season with Regina and take her to the flea market on weekends. He was always trying to make everyone happy, make everyone laugh, Regina said.
Regina was his only daughter, and he spoiled her, she said. Her room when she was little had a gumball machine and a canopy bed. When she went through a period of depression when she was a teenager, she just wanted to sit on the couch and have him hold her. “I just felt like I needed my dad,” she said Monday. And he was there.
Her mother died when she was 18, and her dad helped her through that. Her dad was at her graduation. Her dad walked her down the aisle. Her dad would take her children for the weekend to spend time with them. One of her sons would always put on boots and Wranglers and sunglasses on the visor of his cap before those weekends, so excited to see his grandfather that he wanted to dress like him.
Regina often found herself putting her sunglasses on the visor of her cap, too.
“He was my person,” she said. “The person I called. The person I went to if I had a problem.”
Therese, when she finally had a day off, would often take her two sons fishing at a lake near where she grew up. She didn’t fish, but her boys loved it.
“A lot of moms wouldn’t spend a whole day at a dumpy little lake so her kids could run around and catch perch and bass and catfish,” her son Gary Ramsey said. “She probably didn’t want to do it. But she did it.”
That’s the kind of mom she was, he said; she had a hard life, there was never much money, but she raised her two boys on her own after her divorce with a lot of love. She took them to the swimming pool, she let them go exploring and hunting.
She beat cancer back, twice, and had just recently retired, very happy to finally be able to stop working.
“She always worked so hard, had been through so much,” he said, “when it was time to retire she was happy.”
Therese would pick up her 10-year-old grandson from school when it was deer season and Ramsey was busy with his meat market. Many evenings he and his youngest son would go out on the four-wheeler and visit her at home, just a couple of blocks away.
She loved to go to church. She was planning to give her pastor venison next week, from a deer Breiten Ramsey had shot and his father had butchered, because she knew he loved the meat.
Deer-hunting season had just opened Saturday, so Sunday morning was busy for Gary Ramsey. Then a regular customer asked him what the hell was going on in Sutherland Springs, a few miles away, with all those police at the church.
“I just froze,” Ramsey said. “At that instant I knew.”
He got to the church before it was roped off, running through a field and into the door seeing people coming out with gunshots to their legs. Inside there were dead people everywhere, he said, but he didn’t see Richard. He didn’t see his mom.
“She was just a good, awesome person,” he said, through tears. “She was just awesome. She just wanted to be happy, and be at home.”
— Susan Svrluga
Joann Ward, 30; Emily Garcia, 7; Brooke Ward, 5
Bob Lookingbill thought he couldn't get any more proud of how his daughter lived her life.
Then he found out how she died.
"When the shooting in the church began she shoved her oldest daughter out of the way and fell on top of her three other babies to protect them from the bullets," he said while sitting in his truck outside the Ward family home on a dusty lot on a country road near Sutherland Springs. "She would do it again. She wouldn't want to remain in this world without her children."
"She was a fighter," he added.
Joann Ward, Lookingbill's daughter, was killed Sunday along with two of her children, Emily and Brooke. Her son, Ryland, was shot in his stomach, groin and arm but remains in stable condition at a nearby hospital. Her husband, Chris Ward, was not at the church. Her oldest daughter, Rihanna, told the family what happened in the church.
Lookingbill called his daughter and grandchildren "precious individuals." Joann loved being a mother and it was reflected in her kids, he said, noting that they were well-behaved and voluntarily said their prayers before eating each meal.
"She was outgoing and loving and had a sense of humor and would go out of her way to do things for people," he said. "She raised her daughters like that and she was loved by hundreds of people in this area."
Among them was her best friend, 42-year-old Cody Fuller. On Tuesday, standing on the pitch outside the family home, Fuller broke down recalling how she didn't have many female friends until she met Ward. With her outgoing friend's help, Fuller said, she was able to come out of her shell.
"She was so selfless," she said. "It doesn't surprise me at all that she died the way she did. She would always say, 'I love those children so much that I would die for them.'"
— Peter Holley
Peggy Warden, 56
For many years, Peggy Warden taught the children at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, bringing buttons and popsicle sticks and glue for projects that would help the littlest children enjoy learning about the scriptures.
“She mainly would teach about the love of Jesus Christ,” her brother Jimmy Stevens said, “how important it was to learn it and live by it.”
That’s how she was raised, on their grandparents’ cattle and hay farm a few miles from Sutherland Springs, a house without a television or telephone. Several times a week, their grandmother would pull them away from whatever they were doing – climbing trees or building hideouts in their play time, or helping to fix fences, feed cows, weed the garden when it was time to work – for Bible study.
“We were raised in the faith, knew it from little on up,” Stevens said.
Even as a small child, he said, Peggy’s nature was one of wanting to serve other people, and that is how she lived her life.
Peggy wasn’t one to buy expensive dresses or makeup or draw attention to herself. She grew watermelons and tomatoes and all sorts of vegetablesand enjoyed cooking them for her family. Several generations of them still live on the farm where she grew up.
She worked, as a receptionist for a mayor, at her husband’s used-car lot, and as an aide to an elderly woman, but it was her volunteer work at the church, teaching the children, that she really loved.
When her husband had terminal cancer, she cared for him at home for more than a year. After his death, she went back to teaching at the church.
She had been back a month or two when she went to church last Sunday with one of her grandsons, 18-year-old Zachary Poston.
When the shooting started, she leaned over him to shield him.
A bullet struck her in the back, killing her and saving his life, Stevens said Poston told them afterward. It would have gone straight through his back and chest.
He was hit six times – the last time when he stopping playing dead to push a little girl who was going to run away back under a pew where she was shielded. The gunman apparently saw the movement of his foot and shot at him again, shattering his kneecap.
Stevens and his wife created a fundraising page for Poston, a high school senior interested in drones and eager to go to college, who underwent an eight-hour surgery Tuesday and faces a long recovery.
“We are blessed,” Stevens said, that he survived.
“Peggy would never forgive me,” he added, if they elevated her too much for what she did to save a child in that church. “Jesus Christ is our hero. She always wanted that first in her life.”
— Susan Svrluga and Sarah Larimer
Lula Woicinski White, 71
Under the category of “work” on Facebook, Lula wrote “do what’s needed” at FBC Sutherland Springs. Her sister Mary Mishler Clyburn confirmed to the New York Daily News that she was among those killed at the church where she did what was needed.
“My sister was a wonderful, caring person — a God-loving person. She loved the people in her church. They were all her best friends,” Clyburn told the News. She said Lula’s husband died a few months earlier.
White was the grandmother-in-law of Devin Kelley, who opened fire in the church Sunday.
“I have no doubt where she is right now. She is in Heaven laying her crowns and jewels at the feet of Jesus and celebrating,” Amy Johnson Backus wrote of her aunt Lula on Facebook.
— Terri Rupar
Eddy Palanzo, Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.
Correction: Some ages have been updated with official sources.
She thought it was her turn to die. Then outside, a man appeared.
Farida Brown, who was shot in her legs, lay on the floor in the last row of pews as the gunman paced through Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church.
Details emerge on gunman’s methodical tactics
Chilling details emerged on how Devin P. Kelley methodically tried to take as many victims as possible as he stalked the pews.