Police Arrest Conspiracy Theorists Who Stalked, Harassed Sutherland Springs Church Shooting Victims

People pray in the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, where 26 people were killed in a shooting attack in November.
People pray in the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, where 26 people were killed in a shooting attack in November. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

Police arrested two conspiracy theorists who were accused of stalking and harassing the victims and survivors of the Sutherland Springs church shooting.

Pastor Frank Pomeroy says he approached Robert Ussery, 54, who founded conspiracy website Side Thorn, and his partner Jodi Mann, 56, on Monday after the couple harassed victims and insisted the shooting was a government ploy.

Ussery "continually yelled and screamed and hollered and told me he was gonna hang me from a tree, and pee on me while I'm hanging," the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs pastor told the San Antonio News Express. The couple also threatened fellow congregant Rod Green, who was also present, according to a charging affidavit.

Pomeroy was out of town the day Devin Kelley opened fire in the small church. Pomeroy's 14-year-old daughter was among the victims.

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"[Ussery] said, 'Your daughter never even existed. Show me her birth certificate. Show me anything to say she was here,'" Pomeroy says. "I just told him there was enough evidence already visible, so if he chooses not to see that, how would I know he would believe anything else?"

The death toll stands at 26, with 20 more injured. Kelley reportedly killed himself after a brief car chase when he fled the scene. His in-laws attended the church, and local officials say the mass shooting may have been an extension of a domestic dispute.

"We were a very close family," Sherri, Pomeroy's wife, says. "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 left behind lost tragically."

One family lost members from multiple generations—including an unborn child.

"As much tragedy as that entails for our family, we don't want to overshadow the other lives lost [that Sunday]," Sherri says. "We lost more than Belle [that Sunday]. 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."

Despite the evidence, conspiracy theorists like Ussery and Mann continue to think this attack, along with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting three weeks ago, are government lies meant to scare the public into embracing gun control.

But Pomeroy says he thinks the couple believes what they are saying.

"Before talking to him today, I thought he was trying to play some angle," Pomeroy said. "But I think he's truly demented. I think he truly believes his own rhetoric. I can't explain it."

Ussery and Mann were charged with trespassing and resisting arrest or search, according to My San Antonio.

Ussery was also charged with possessing under two ounces of marijuana and making a terroristic threat, a class B misdemeanor.

"Both victims were in fear of their personal safety by [Ussery's] verbal threats and demeanor," according to the charging affidavit.

Jessilyn Justice @jessilynjustice is the director of online news for Charisma.

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