Thousands gathered in Texas on Wednesday to grieve with a family ripped apart by the Sutherland Springs church shooting.
Three generations of the Holcombe family lost their lives in the mass shooting at First Baptist Church on Nov. 5. The eight family members ranged widely in age ― from an 18-month-old child to the church’s 60-year-old associate pastor. One of the victims was also pregnant.
The Holcombe family’s losses accounted for one-third of the 26 deaths in the shooting.
On Wednesday, John Holcombe, a survivor of the shooting, invited the public to attend memorial services for his family members at the Floresville Events Center, about 12 miles from First Baptist Church.
Holcombe lost his wife, Crystal, who was pregnant. Three of Crystal’s kids from a previous marriage were also killed. Both of John’s parents were killed, along with his brother and 18-month-old niece.
Tara McNulty, a close family friend, was also remembered at the funeral.
At least 3,000 people showed up to pay their respects, filling the center to capacity, the AP reported.
John shared stories about his wife and his three deceased stepchildren during the service, according to My San Antonio. He also spoke about the hopes the couple had for what would have been their first child together. Crystal was due in April, and they were going to name the baby Carlin Brite “Billy Bob” Holcombe.
He described Crystal as a woman who could “take sick plants and heal them.”
“Like how she took a broken man and made him whole again,” he said.
Two of Crystal’s children are still alive ― a 7-year-old daughter named Evelyn who survived the shooting and a 14-year-old son named Philip who had stayed home from services that day.
Sarah Slavin, John’s sister, reportedly spoke during the funeral about their deceased parents, Bryan and Karla. She described the parents as people who had great faith in God.
The massacre at First Baptist Church was one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history. Authorities say the shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, was involved in a domestic dispute with his in-laws, some of whom attended the church. Kelley had a history of domestic violence, including a conviction that should have prevented him from being able to purchase firearms.
Kelley died after the attack, from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Joe Holcombe, Bryan’s father, reportedly took time during the service to pray for Kelley’s family, The Washington Post reported.
In addition to the deaths, 20 people were also wounded in the shooting. Eight remained hospitalized on Wednesday, the AP reports.
The church where the shooting took place has been turned into a memorial. The pews have been removed and 26 white chairs mark the spots where church members lost their lives.
In a Facebook status posted on Nov. 8, John Holcombe asked members of the public for their continued prayers.
“Please continue to pray for us in the coming days / weeks / months as we work through all of the issues,” he wrote. “I ask for prayers for health, healing, guidance, wisdom, discernment, understanding, protection, and God’s will in our decisions and in our lives. Also please keep our Church family in your prayers.”