The FBI has flown to its Quantico, Virginia, lab the mobile phone used by the gunman in Sunday’s Baptist church massacre in hopes experts can thwart the phone’s security barriers, an agency rep told reporters at a Tuesday presser in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
The agent declined to name the brand of phone, saying he did not want to alert “bad guys” what phone they should buy to thwart authorities.
Victims of the largest mass shooting in Texas history have all been identified and next of kin notified. But authorities attending the presser declined to release the names to the press until the medical examiner gave the all-clear signal, possibly later in the day, or Wednesday. Likewise, reporters learned nothing more about the dispute between the killer and his mother in law that officials have said they believe likely led to the killing of 26 churchgoers.
Police arrived at the Baptist church within four minutes of the first 911 call on Sunday morning, officials said Tuesday , acknowledging that is a long time in an active-shooter situation.
One reporter at the presser asked FBI agent Christopher Combs if they were working with any hackers to unlock that phone, as happened in similar circumstances with the mass shooting in San Bernardina, California. Combs mentioned they were working with “partners,” adding, “We will get into that phone.”
In March of 2016, federal officials dropped a legal fight against Apple after unlocking the iPhone used by an assailant in the previous year’s San Bernardino terror attack, leaving unsettled a vexing debate over privacy and security amid rapid advances in technology. That move came a week after Justice Department officials put a sudden hold on demands Apple assist the FBI, with an announcement that an outside group had offered a way to hack into the iPhone.
Authorities at Tuesday’s presser declined to say why the gunman was denied a concealed-carry permit for a handgun but was able, nonetheless to buy a semi-automatic rifle in the state.
Families of victims will receive about $6,500 from crime victims’ compensations funds which should cover funeral expenses, reporters were told. An unnamed company has come donated caskets for each of victims. Twenty six people were killed and another 20 wounded when a gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a grudge against his mother-in-law opened fire on the church she attended. The gunman should not have been able to purchase the weapon after being court martialed and sentenced to a year in prison for battering his wife and infant son. The Air Force has acknowledged it failed to send the information about his crime to the national database that would have blocked his gun purchase. All questions on that topic asked at Tuesday’s presser were referred to the Air Force.
Asked if citizens gathering at places of worship needed to be armed or hire protective services, Combs noted the number of mass shootings is “on the rise” and “everybody needs to think about this.
“We all have to think about this and make sure we are prepared, like schools do fire drills,” he said. “We used to kill a lot of children in fires back in the early 1900’s.”