Nearly four years after 26 people lost their lives during the horrific shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the building is reportedly slated for demolition.
Shooter Devin Patrick Kelley walked into the church on Nov. 5, 2017, and opened fire on the crowd during a Sunday morning worship service. The victims ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old.
In an email to CBN News, Pastor Frank Pomeroy stated that the church decided to "remove the old enclosed facility and replace it with an open-air facility that will have 24/7 access." He said an appointment was needed previously in order to go inside.
"We as a body decided this was the best way to honor the lives that were lost that fateful day and also the survivors that still have to go by the old facility," he told CBN News. "This will give opportunities of worship and prayer at all times to everyone who desires to pay their respects and honor the martyrs of that fateful day."
According to News 4 in San Antonio, the congregation voted Sunday to raze the sanctuary because it was deemed structurally unsafe.
"Once you're in there, the beautiful white walls, the white ceiling, the white floor, the white chairs, the names on the chairs of everybody that they lost," said Terrie Smith, the president of the Sutherland Springs Community Association. "The single red rose, the beautiful big cross in the center. It gives you an embrace by everybody."
Smith added, "It's just a beautiful, peaceful place. Small, little church, small little community with a lot of humble people, and humbled angels that we lost."
TODAY: I spoke with members of the Sutherland Springs community and could hear the pain in their voices.
Church members voted 69 to 35 to level the structure.
You may remember just a week after the shooting, the quaint building was transformed into a memorial for victims. pic.twitter.com/vXCBqumpiH
— Morgan Burrell (@Morgan_Burrell) August 22, 2021
The church's sanctuary was converted into a memorial and a new church building was built next to it in 2019.
On opening day, Pastor Pomeroy told the crowd they were celebrating God's glory while remembering "those who have paid a price for this incredible facility."
The church commemorated the victims by reading their names as the church bell rang, and those connected to them stood up in the crowd. Pomeroy's 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle Pomeroy, was among those killed.
The new worship center and memorial room honoring the victims was made possible through millions of dollars in donations from around the world. The facility features enhanced security elements, along with a new church bell tower and an additional prayer space.
Investigators said the attack appeared to stem from a domestic dispute involving Kelley and his mother-in-law, who sometimes attended services at the church but wasn't there the day of the shooting.
Kelley died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after being shot by a neighbor and then fled in a vehicle while being chased by two men who heard gunfire coming from the church.
Some survivors and family members of victims said the former house of worship is a painful reminder of the tragedy that devastated the small town.
The mass shooting is considered the deadliest church shooting in U.S. history.