DALLAS (AP) — When a gunman opened fire onto the congregation at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Sunday school teacher Peggy Warden threw herself in front of her grandson, getting fatally shot as she protected the 18-year-old, who then shielded a child who had been hiding under a pew, according to relatives.
Warden, 56, was one of more than a dozen people who were killed in Sunday's shooting. Her grandson Zach Poston was among about 20 other people who were injured, and he described what happened from the San Antonio hospital where he was still recovering on Thursday, said Warden's brother Jimmy Stevens.
"Basically, Peggy stood up and just shielded over him while the shooter was shooting. And when she got hit in the back he said he turned — because he heard her — and when he turned to see if she was OK, she passed away immediately," Stevens said.
Poston had already been hit in his arms, legs and side, Stevens said, when he saw a small child trying to get out from underneath a pew. So Poston shoved the child back under with his leg, Stevens said, and was shot again in the leg.
"So he took what Peggy gave him and he passed it on to help someone else," Stevens told The Associated Press on Thursday. He said it's his understanding that the child survived.
Stevens said one of the congregants was a nurse who was able to help bandage Poston, likely keeping the high school senior from bleeding to death.
"He will recover physically at some point; we just don't know what that point will be," Stevens said. "Our prayers and concerns are going to be for him and those others in there because of the mental and heartfelt torture they went through. It's still going to be in their mind," he said.
The gunman shot and killed 25 people at the church. Authorities have put the official toll at 26, because one of the victims was pregnant. The gunman died of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being chased by bystanders and crashing his car.
Stevens said his sister taught Sunday school, but had only returned to being active in the church in recent months after spending more than a year caring for her husband, who had cancer and died in July.
"Her goal was always to teach children and to make sure she was a disciple," Stevens said, adding, "Her goal was to teach those children so that they grew up with that strength in their heart."
Sign up for the AP's weekly newsletter showcasing our best reporting from the Midwest and Texas: http://apne.ws/2u1RMfv .