FLORESVILLE, Texas (Reuters) - A family that lost members of three generations when a man with an assault weapon opened fire at a rural Texas church this month asked about 3,000 mourners at a funeral on Wednesday to bask in the love the victims showed and not dwell in anger.
Friends and relatives of the Holcombe family, which had nine members die in the attack that killed 26 people at Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church on Nov. 5, choked back tears as they spoke from a stage above a line of flower-adorned caskets.
Frank Pomeroy, the church’s pastor whose daughter also was among the shooting victims, said the deaths had cast a pall over the area. But he said his spirit rejoiced knowing the Holcombe family members and others who perished had been reunited in heaven and that better days were ahead.
“Our day of joy is going to come,” said Pomeroy, who was out of town when the attack occurred.
The Holcombe family was well known in the area about 30 miles (50 kms) east of San Antonio with gentle hills, cattle ranches and retirees looking for a quiet place to live.
Hundreds had to be turned away from the public memorial after the crowd filled an event centre to capacity in the town of Floresville, about 15 miles (25 km)from where the deadliest mass shooting in modern Texas history attack took place.
Authorities have said the attack stemmed from a domestic dispute. The shooter, identified by authorities as Devin Kelley, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a failed getaway attempt.
Among those killed in the church were John Bryan Holcombe, who was leading services, and his wife Karla. Their son Marc “Danny” Holcombe died along with his 18-month-old daughter Noah.
His sister-in-law Crystal Holcombe and her three children from her first marriage, Emily, Megan and Greg Hill, also died.
Crystal Holcombe was several months pregnant. Under Texas law, her unborn child, named Carlin Brite Holcombe, is considered a victim.
John Holcombe, Crystal’s husband and a survivor of the attack, described her as a beautiful person inside and out and said he was blessed for the time he had with his stepchildren.
“Crystal’s life is a reminder to all of us that love never fails,” he said. “She was a virtuous woman who served God with all her heart.”
As the funeral closed, her casket and those of her family members were taken out of the auditorium while “Amazing Grace” was played on bagpipes.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Osterman