Conspiracy theorists questioning whether the mass shooting at a Texas church last November actually happened have been harassing survivors for months. Now, the church’s pastor is pushing back.
Here & Now‘s Robin Young speaks with Frank Pomeroy, pastor of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, and his wife, Sherri Pomeroy. Their 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was killed in the shooting.
“To be honest, I remember during Sandy Hook hearing about people who were denying the validity and the reality of what had happened up in Sandy Hook,” Frank says. “However, I guess I’ve never put much credence in those kinds of things and never really listened to it, so I didn’t realize just how serious these people can be and how vicious, actually, these people can be when they come down and try to prove their alternate reality.”
On what conspiracy theorists have been saying
Frank Pomeroy: “Well they have been coming to the neighborhood ever since day one, for the most part, and accusing all the neighbors, the parishioners, everyone involved, that we are all traitors to our country because we are trying to carry out a Department of Homeland Security drill to entice the rest of the country to have to live in fear, and that none of our family members or loved ones have existed, that this was all made up and that we are all, each one of us, individually, working together some overall plot against America.”
Sherri Pomeroy: “It’s been just a nightmare. They’re just opening wounds and pouring salt in.”
On confronting conspiracy theorists outside the church
FP: “We did not choose to integrate ourselves with these people. They unfortunately engaged with us. The other day, they got out to deface one of the posters from one of the well-wishers that we have hanging on our fence, and I was able to step out of my vehicle and that’s when the berating and the hollering and everything else started on me at that point.”
On there being less of a push for gun changes after Sutherland Springs than what’s been seen after the Parkland school shooting
FP: “Guns are just a part of who we are in south Texas, and carrying a sidearm is not something unusual. The ideology that came out of Parkland just wouldn’t ever remotely grow legs down here in south Texas, I don’t believe.”
On stricter gun laws
FP: “I am not one that is an avid person right or left. I believe there are some sensible gun control issues that need to be debated and brought forth. However, I don’t believe that taking away the right of owning a sidearm is something that should be thought on either.
“I am one of the few that do believe that there’s not much use for automatic weapons in the hands of civilians. I understand there is the hog populations and such, where they utilize those kinds of weapons. But I also understand, too, the fear of that being a first step if folks was to say, ‘Oh yes, we’re gonna relent and allow the semiautomatic weapons to be taken from us. The next step is going to be our sidearms.’ I don’t really buy into that mantra. Therefore my personal opinion is that we probably do not need the military, assault-style rifles. That’s coming from a hunter. I have 23 rifles, different styles, and I do not own an assault rifle. I see no point in it for me.”
On the response to the Parkland shooting
SP: “Well I’ve purposely tried to not watch any of that, because it’s just too fresh and too raw right now. So, I’ve been so busy trying to heal and get our life back to some kinda normal. You just learn to go on. Not even one day at a time, one breath at a time. I mean, you can be just, you know, smiling one minute, and something will hit you, a memory will come, and that’s it. We all lost a lot of friends and family, and we’re just muddling through the one breath at a time.”
On her husband giving her a gun for Christmas
SP: “Well it’s a new world for us. Our whole world has changed. I’ve never been a person of fear. We live in a community where it’s not uncommon to leave your house unlocked if you run down the road, or your car’s unlocked when you go into Walmart. We just live in a small, safe town where we feel comfortable, and it’s turned it upside down to where the new normal is, I feel safer to be carrying a gun, where before it never crossed my mind. But now it’s become more personal.”