Here’s why Texas Gov. Greg Abbott uses a wheelchair

Updated Nov 06, 2017

This story has been updated to reflect the latest from officials.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott responded to the Texas church shooting Sunday following the tragedy that killed more than 25 parishioners ages 18 months to 77 years and injured more than 20 others at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

» RELATED: The deadly Texas church shooting, by the numbers: At least 26 killed, 20 injured

Officials identified the gunman as Devin Patrick Kelley, a white man in his 20s. Kelley opened fire outside the church, then went inside where 50 parishioners were worshipping, officials said. He killed at least 26 people, including the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter.

» RELATED: Mass shooting at Texas church: Live updates

“As a state, we are dealing with the largest mass shooting in our state’s history,” Abbott said at a press conference Sunday.

“There are so many families that have lost family members. The tragedy is worsened that it happened in a church, a place of worship. We mourn their loss, but we support their family members.”

» RELATED: Devin Patrick Kelley: What we know about the alleged Sutherland Springs Baptist Church shooter

Abbott appeared on camera in a wheelchair, sparking high search interest online about his disability and condition.

Here’s why Republican Gov. Greg Abbott uses a wheelchair

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 01: Texas Governor Greg Abbott delivers a briefing to the public on Hurricane Harvey at the Texas Department of Public Safety building on September 1, 2017 in Austin, Texas. Hurricane Harvey has caused wide spread flooding and mass evacuations in the Houston area. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)

In 1984, when Abbott was 26 years old, Abbott became partially paralyzed after an oak tree, which had become weak after a storm, fell on him during his run. 

» RELATED: Texas church shooting suspect was court-martialed, discharged from Air Force

According to the Dallas Morning News, doctors found bone fragments in his broken spine, as well as fractured ribs and damaged kidneys.

» RELATED: Trump says Texas church shooting result of 'mental health problem,' not guns

Abbott  was forced to lie on his back for a month before beginning rehabilitation and has been using a wheelchair ever since.

» RELATED: US gun death rate up for second straight year, drug deaths rising faster than ever

At the time of his freak accident, Abbott was a recent graduate of Vanderbilt Law School and was studying for the bar exam, which he passed a year after the injury.

He’s said that the accident literally gave him a spine of steel.

» RELATED: Bystander, neighbor chase gunman who killed 26 at Texas church

“Some politicians talk about having a steel spine. I actually have one. I will use my steel spine to fight for Texas values every single day,” Abbott said in 2013 when he announced his candidacy for governor, the Austin American-Statesman reported. 

» RELATED: Gun violence in America: Mother Jones database shows when, where for every mass shooting since 1982

About four years ago, Abbott released the terms of a settlement with the homeowner and tree care company involved in the accident. He won a settlement agreement worth approximately $9 million.

Read more about the injury at