Among the fatal victims of Sunday’s mass shooting at a Texas church was the pastor’s teenage daughter, Annabelle Renee Pomeroy, according to multiple news reports.
The 14-year-old’s mother, Sherri Pomeroy, confirmed her death to CBS News, saying that she and her husband, church pastor Frank Pomeroy, were traveling at the time of the rampage.
Sherri also confirmed Annabelle’s passing to CNN.
Speaking to ABC News, Frank described Annabelle as “one very beautiful, special child” and said he had been returning from Oklahoma when the shooting broke out. (PEOPLE has not been able to reach the family for comment.)
“My husband and I were ironically out of town in two different states,” Sherri told CBS. “We lost our 14-year-old daughter today and many friends. … Neither of us have made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation.”
Sherri noted on Sunday that she was in North Carolina and “trying to get home as soon as I can.”
On Monday, she told reporters, “We don’t want to overshadow the other lives lost yesterday. We lost more than Belle yesterday, and one thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement is the fact that Belle was surrounded yesterday by her church family that she loved fiercely and vice versa.”
“Our church was not comprised of members or parishioners, ” Sherri continued. “We were a very close family: We ate together, we laughed together, we cried together and we worshipped together. Now most of our church family is gone.”
“Our building is probably beyond repair and the few of us that are left behind, lost tragically,” she said. “As senseless as this tragedy was, our sweet Belle would not have been able to deal with losing so much family yesterday. Please don’t forget Sutherland Springs.”
Annabelle was one of at least 26 people killed and 20 others injured by a gunman who opened fire from outside the First Baptist Church around 11:30 a.m. local time during a service, authorities said at a Sunday evening news conference.
The gunman then entered the church and continued to shoot.
The victims ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years old, authorities said.
The shooter, who has been identified as 26-year-old disgraced former Air Force member Devin Kelley, was killed after a brief chase into neighboring Guadalupe County, Texas, authorities said. It is unclear if the shooter was killed by other gunfire or by suicide.
The shooter used an assault rifle, according to investigators. He was wearing all-black tactical gear and a ballistic vest and multiple weapons were found in his vehicle.
When the suspect exited the church, a local resident engaged him in gunfire, officials said Sunday. The suspect dropped his weapon and fled, with the local resident in pursuit.
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Ernest Hajek, a Wilson County commissioner, told PEOPLE that he knew several members of the congregation.
“This is just a small, rural farming community,” he said. “It isn’t really a town. A small church with 40 or 50 congregants at each service. It doesn’t make any sense. We are trying to find out the motive and it could take some time.”
Hajek said that he visited the crime scene and saw several bullet holes in the windows and walls of the church.
Noting that he was formerly an investigator for the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office in San Antonio, Texas, Hajek told PEOPLE, “This is the worst mass shooting I have seen.”
“I have seen other mass shootings,” he said, “but nothing like this.”
• With reporting by DIANE HERBST