The small town community of Sutherland Springs, Texas, was left heartbroken Sunday after a deadly mass shooting claimed the lives of at least 26 people at a local church.
Now, multiple tales of heroism from that devastating day are starting to emerge, including that of mother of four, Joann Ward.Joann Ward/Facebook
According to earlier reports, Joann was attending service at the First Baptist Church with her four children when shots rang out.
Her sister-in-law, Leslie Ward, was at her home just a few blocks away and heard a “bam, bam, bam, bam” coming from the church.
She and her husband grabbed Chris Ward, the father of Joann’s children, and ran over to the church. But it was already too late. As Dearly previously reported, Leslie Ward told the New York Daily News:
“I found my nephew in the front, in pain. It was bad. There was just dead bodies everywhere. It wasn’t what I wanted to see but at the time, I wasn’t worried about it. I was worried about finding my family.”
Joann’s 5-year-old son, Ryland, had been shot four times and was reportedly in stable condition after arriving at the hospital. Her 9-year-old daughter, Rihanna, had the glasses shot off her face but was otherwise unharmed.
Joann and her other children, 5-year-old Brooke and 7-year-old Emily, didn’t make it out alive.
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Now, little Rihanna has revealed how she and her brother, Ryland, managed to survive that day. It was all thanks to their mom, Joann.
According to the Sun, Rihanna told family friend Vonda Greek Smith that Joann shoved her to safety and shielded her siblings:
‘‘I didn’t get shot because I was hiding, and Mama covered Emily, Ryland and Brooke.”
Ryland underwent surgery at the hospital but still remains in critical condition, according to the Sun.
Joann’s story is just one example of extreme bravery to come out of the heartbreaking incident.
According to earlier reports, civilians Stephen Willeford, 55, and Johnnie Langendorff, 27, engaged in a shootout with Kelley after he fled the church. It is believed the former U.S. Air Force member ultimately took his own life before authorities arrived.
At least 30 people were injured during the mass shooting, ranging in age from 17 months to 77 years old.