FBI having trouble unlocking suspected church shooter’s phone

DPS Regional Director Freeman Martin gives an update on the Sutherland Springs church shooting investigation Nov. 7, 2017 (KXAN Photo)
DPS Regional Director Freeman Martin gives an update on the Sutherland Springs church shooting investigation Nov. 7, 2017 (KXAN Photo)

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) — The suspected gunman’s cell phone is proving tricky to unlock, but law enforcement officials hope it provides new details into his plans and state of mind before he opened fire at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Officials are 48 hours into their investigation, and have completed searches and scene processing of alleged shooter Devin Kelley‘s vehicle as well as his New Braunfels home. They expect to finish processing the “massive” crime scene at the church by Wednesday night, according to DPS Regional Director Freeman Martin, who added that the “best of the best” are working the investigation — including 136 commissioned officers working the scene.

Monday the FBI flew Kelley’s cell phone to Quantico, Virginia, for analysis, but investigators have not yet been able to unlock it, said Christopher Combs with the FBI. He did not have a timeline for when they would be able to do so.

“It actually highlights an issue you all have heard before with the advance of the technology and the phones and the encryptions — law enforcement — whether that’s at the state, local or federal level — is increasingly not able to get into these phones,” Combs said. He wouldn’t specify the type of phone the suspect had, in order to make sure criminals don’t get any ideas about how to thwart law enforcement.

The FBI confirmed Kelley had not been in any of their databases and was not involved in any previous FBI investigations. Martin said they were not prepared to discuss his motive, but reiterated that he had a conflict with his mother-in-law, who attended the church. She was not there on Sunday.

“We can only speculate,” Martin said. “We don’t know what he was thinking, what was in his mind or what his future plans are.”

On Monday ATF agents acquired shell casings from the semi-automatic Ruger AR rifle and are entering data into a national database to determine if the gun was used in any other shootings.

Within four minutes of the first 911 call, Wilson County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived at the scene.

“I can tell you 4 minutes is a long time in an active shooter situation,” Martin said. He also praised once again the good Samaritan who grabbed his own gun and confronted Kelley.

“How can you not love that guy — that guy did what needed to be done,” Martin said.

Martin said officials will be prepared to release the names of the 26 victims by Tuesday night or Wednesday. There were about 50 people in the congregation, and with 20 of them injured, very few walked away without any type of physical harm. Martin said 10 people are still in critical condition in the hospital.

A company has volunteered to donate caskets for the victims, and the Attorney General’s office has a crime victim’s compensation fund, which will pay $6,500 for funeral expenses and can also help cover medical expenses.




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