CHICAGO (CBS) — The man who was once pastor of the Texas church where a gunman took 26 lives says he’s still in shock.
It’s been many years since Shawn Porter retired from the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and moved to Wisconsin. Regardless, he says the faces all came back when he heard about Sunday’s shooting on the radio.
“The main thing I was listening for was any names — see anybody that I might know that they were interviewing,” Porter exclusively told CBS 58.
As it turns out, he did know people who were caught in the gunfire, including members of the Holcombe family. Eight members of the Holcombe family were killed in the church, and some are still in the hospital as of early Tuesday.
“We’d usually sit in the first or second pew,” Porter said. “It was the same all the time. The Holcombe’s would sit over to the left side.”
CBS News has learned nearly half of the victims came from two families.
Seeing images of the front doors he had walked through hundreds of times sent shivers through his body and chills up his spine, he said.
“They got up, got ready, put their Sunday best on, went down the street to the little church not knowing they’d never get to go back home again. That’s the hard part to take,” said Porter.
According to CBS 58, Porter didn’t know the gunman, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley. He did, however, know Kelley’s grandmother-in-law, Lula White, who was killed in the shooting. He says she did a lot for the youth in the church.
“She was very much involved with the children’s portion of the church. I remember she had a Sunday school class and my two boys were in her class and just loved her,” said Porter.
Porter was an associate pastor at First Baptist Church for 13 years; he left in 2000.