5-Year-Old Boy Wounded in Texas Church Massacre Who Lost Mom and Sisters Faces a ‘Long Journey’
© Gary Zwicke
A 5-year-old boy who lost his mother and two sisters in Sunday morning’s mass shooting that killed 26 and injured 20 is in critical condition, family members tell PEOPLE.
Rylan Ward is receiving treatment at University Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, after he was shot five times by a gunman who opened fire at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, where his family are regular parishioners.
The shooter, identified as 26-year-old Devin Kelley, a former Air Force member, was dressed in all-black tactical gear with a ballistics vest when he began firing from outside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs around 11:30 a.m. local time, during a service.
Rylan’s mother, Joann, and his two sisters, Brooke Ward, 5, and 7-year-old Emily Garza, were killed in the attack, the state’s deadliest mass shooting in modern history.
His father, Chris Ward, is “very devastated,” according to Chris Ward’s uncle, Gary Zwicke, adding, “Stuff like that doesn’t happen in Sutherland Springs.”
Zwicke says Rylan went into surgery and was recovering as of Monday morning.
“He’s still alive but he’s in critical condition. He’s not very good. Hopefully he’s going to make it, but they can’t say,” Zwicke says.Rylan’s eldest sister, 9, who was also at the church during the attack, had a bullet graze off her glasses but survived the shooting, Zwicke says.
His cousin, Heather Bradley, launched a GoFundMe page to help with hospital bills.
She wrote that Ryland is “on a breathing tube looking to make it but [it’s] going to be a long journey,” and that he was shot once in the elbow, twice in the stomach and twice in the leg.
The 26 fatal victims ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years old, Texas officials announced Monday morning at a press conference.
Among the dead are the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old aspiring NICU nurse. Officials have not yet released the names of the victims and won’t do so until relatives of all are notified.
When the gunman exited the church, a local resident engaged him in gunfire, authorities said. The gunman dropped his weapon and fled, with the local resident in pursuit.
A brief chase ensued into neighboring Guadalupe County, Texas, where the shooter was later found dead in his vehicle. It is unclear if he was killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound or a gunshot wound he received while exchanging fire with the local resident, authorities said.
Authorities said the shooting stemmed from a domestic dispute, and that the shooter had sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, who attended the church. There is no terrorism investigation in connection with the shooting.
An Air Force spokeswoman tells PEOPLE that the shooter served at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, working in logistics readiness. He was stationed there from 2010 until he was discharged in 2014, following a 2012 court-martial on accusations he assaulted his spouse and their child, the spokeswoman says.