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Shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, 20 dead. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired November 5, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:00:08] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hi, welcome back. Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We are watching breaking news out of Texas. Many people have been shot at a church in Sutherland springs located east of San Antonio. This is what we know.
Wilson County commissioner Albert Gamez Jr. told CNN he was told by an emergency responder there that multiple people are dead and dozens are injured. The FBI and first responders are on the scene. The gunman we understand is dead after a brief chase.
CNN's Kaylee Hartung joins me now.
You talked to a number of people. You are getting a sense as to what may have unfolded today roughly 11:30 central time.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 11:30 this morning in the middle of first Baptist church service. It was told to me by a witness, the woman in cashier at gas station across the street that she heard what she thought to be about 20 shots fired around 11:30 this morning. She said it sounded as if it was the work of a semi-automatic weapon.
We have learned from local officials that a brief pursuit then ensued as police chased the gunman across the county line. That pursuit ended with the gunman's death. Though it is unclear if police killed the man or if he took his own life.
We are seeing federal, state and local assets on the ground there as many are injured. Some patients -- eight patients we hear are at university health hospital in San Antonio. More are at Connelly memorial medical center in Florisbelt (ph). But we still do not know the identity of the suspect here or more about what happened inside the walls of that first Baptist church this morning. A very tight knit community.
We are hearing from Governor Greg Abbott as he says our prayers are with all who were harmed by this evil act. Our thanks to law enforcement for their response. More details from DPS soon.
And Fred, we could learn more details from investigators as we believe that video exists of what transpired this morning. First Baptist church posts its services on its You Tube channel week to week so that its congregation can view at sermon. You would have to think that today would have been any different at that camera would have been rolling as it always does to record the service. You can only imagine if the video does exists it will be critical to this investigation.
WHITFIELD: Yes. All right, thank you so much Kaylee.
All right. Joining me right now on the phone Nannette Kilbey-Smith. She is an editor with the Wilson county news, the paper covering Sutherland Springs, Texas.
And we understand Nannette you are one of the first on the scene. Describe to me what you saw.
NANNETTE KILBEY-SMITH, EDITOR, WILSON COUNTY NEWS (on the phone): I wasn't one of the first on the scene but one of the few media outlets that was here in the initial aftermath. It is a chaotic scene. Every agency possible from the county and nearby communities descended to actually bring their aid and assistants to make sense of the scene.
We have unconfirmed reports of as many as two dozen dead, perhaps with more than 30 that are injured. These include elderly, young families, young children among their fatalities from what we know. Nothing has been confirmed at this point. This is very much still an active scene. And obviously, this is the hardest that the community (INAUDIBLE) taking it all on the people here.
WHITFIELD: I know it has to be. The heart of the community, population just 643 people, a very small intimate community. Nannette, can you describe for me, is this place where generally everybody knows one another?
KILBEY-SMITH: Yes. Yes, it is, very much so. Very much so. Everybody knows everybody. They all come out for the different communities.
WHITFIELD: So for you responding to this, covering it as a reporter, but also someone who is part of the fabric of the community, this is very personal. How about for first responders who are responding to this tragedy knowing this is such a small, you know, close knit community presumably many of the victims are friends or family members of all of you.
KILBEY-SMITH: They are. They are. It's very personal to all of our communities. And it's been very difficult for the first responders on the scene.
WHITFIELD: I imagine so. We understand that the gunman is dead. And we don't know whether it is self-inflicted or whether this gunman was taken down by police. There was a chase. What can you tell us about the chase that went into the neighboring county just miles away?
[16:05:03] KILBEY-SMITH: Very little other than that there was a chase and the shooter did not survive. But it has not been made clear at this point the manner of that death. And we are waiting on official word here on the ground.
WHITFIELD: And Nannette, where are you in terms of proximity to the church right now? KILBEY-SMITH: I am a block away from the church. I'm actually
sitting outside of the local community center which has been turned into a family resource center. This is where the families of the victims are waiting for word.
WHITFIELD: My goodness. That is a tough place. So what are you hearing from people as they are awaiting word whether their family members were in there or whether they have been transported? Describe for me what is being expressed by people there.
KILBEY-SMITH: Shock. It's just complete shock. That's all I can say. Complete misbelief.
WHITFIELD: This has to be particularly difficult for you as a journalist. You cover the community there, but now you are, you know, approaching people that you know, loved ones, friends, people that you come into contact with on a regular basis and you are also a source of information for them at the same time you are also trying to extend comfort. Describe for me what that has been like for you.
KILBEY-SMITH: I really don't know how to put it into words. Yes, I'm here in an official capacity but I'm also here because this is where we live. And these are people that I know and have known for years. And I offer what comfort I can in circumstances and sometimes it's not words. You just embrace and offer what comfort you can.
WHITFIELD: Understandably. Have you been to first Baptist church?
WHITFIELD: Describe it for me.
KILBEY-SMITH: It's your quintessential small country church, white, painted frame building, wood pews. Just small town America where people go to worship and praise and gather and celebrate. It's a very vibrant church community.
WHITFIELD: And my colleague here -- I apologize. Go ahead.
KILBEY-SMITH: Go ahead.
WHITFIELD: My colleague here also discovered that that church is one that posts its services on You Tube. Is this something that people, you know, customarily they are unable to get to church, you know, they would enjoy being able to attend church so to speak by way of You Tube?
KILBEY-SMITH: Many people do, yes. It's a very popular way to reach the community members. Sometimes the home bound, you know. Sometimes those that are, you know, they are away from home. That's their way of staying in touch. I am going to have to go.
WHITFIELD: OK. Well, Nannette, you have been very helpful. We are so sorry because this is your community. This is where you live, where you work, your friends and family. This is very personal for you. Our prayers go out to you and the community there in Sutherland springs, Texas. Thank you so much.
KILBEY-SMITH: On that note is prayers. The community is welcoming the prayers of everyone. That's what we need most right now.
WHITFIELD: And there have been so many prayers extended from the President of the United States while he is overseas on his five Asian nation tour. Right now we have heard from Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Texas governor Greg Abbott, as well.
Our Jeremy Diamond is traveling with the President. He is joining us right now from Tokyo.
The President staying abreast of this tragedy. You are reminding us this taking place just one month after the Las Vegas massacre and now this very small knit community is tragically touched by this violence taking place in the middle of church service today - Jeremy.
[16:10:08] JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, that's right.
And the President, you know, despite being thousands of miles away is obviously monitoring this situation, getting updates from his staff on the latest, you know. We know that law enforcement and the FBI are on the scene. So those updates filtering up to the President while he is here in Tokyo.
This is what the President tweeted just a little bit ago. He said may God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI and law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan.
The President just arrived here in Tokyo less than 24 hours ago. And this is, of course, where he was expected to focus on trade, focus on the North Korean threat. Now this is obviously going to cast a much larger shadow over the entirety of his trip. And you know, it is also in the United States likely to once again ignite this conversation about how do we address these mass shootings that seem to take place all too often in the United States. Thirty-five days ago this shooting in Las Vegas. And yet we have not seen any action, of course, substantive action from Congress or from the President. So those questions likely to be posed once again. But for now, at least, the President offering his thoughts and prayers.
We are expected to see him on camera later today and we will have to wait and see what he has to say about yet another tragic shooting in the United States, one that every President it seems in recent memory has to deal with in one way or another.
WHITFIELD: All right, horrible situation indeed. I spoke with a county commissioner earlier who said based on information he received from an EMS official that upwards of two dozen people dead and about two dozen injured. But again, those numbers have not been authenticated and verified from law enforcement directly to CNN.
All right. Jeremy, thank you so much traveling with the President.
All right. On the phone right now with me a CNN law enforcement analyst Art Roderick and former ATF executive Matthew Horace.
All right. Good both of you could be with me. Let's talk about the intricacies of how this investigation moves forward.
Matthew, we know that ATF is on the scene. You formally with your experience with ATF, what will be their focus there at the church?
MATTHEW HORACE, FORMER ATF EXECUTIVE (on the phone): Well, they are going to be supporting incident command. I'm presuming that the FBI is leading the investigation. They are going to have to -- this is one complex crime scene with over two dozen deaths. So those victims are going to have to remain into place.
There are interviews that need to be accomplished. They need to gather around. They have to shot both within the victims and in the building in general. I understand the service is normally videotaped. They are going to-- I'm sure they will test the video to see if they have depiction of the incident. And there is some awful lot of work that has to be done over the course of the next 24 to 48 hours.
WHITFIELD: And Art Roderick, who leads an investigation like this when you have federal state, local law enforcement at a shooting taking place in a sanctuary?
ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (on the phone): Well, this would be a joint investigation at this particular point in time so they can figure out what the motive is. If this is a hate crime then the FBI will probably step in and take over. If not then you have the Texas department of public safety, DPS, or the Texas rangers will generally handle something like this. But they assist the local law enforcement agency there.
A lot of times in this small police department, we have the overwhelming majority of our police department surely, mean less than 50 people or less. I think it is like 85 percent. So the local PD, your lead assistance on this particular case. And once they figure out the motive like everybody is going to fall into place in that particular point in time. But the bottom line is we have a dead perpetrator and now it is just a matter of putting pieces together. We no longer have a man hunt. And now law enforcement can take their time and put together a solid case as to exactly what the motive is, why the individual did what he did.
WHITFIELD: All right. Art Roderick and Matthew Horace, thank you so much. We are going to take a short break for now. We will have much more on this tragedy at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
[16:33:28] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We continue to watch this breaking news out of Sutherland Springs, Texas, a tragedy.
A person walks into the first Baptist church and starts firing a weapon. And according to the Wilson county sheriff Joe Tackitt (ph), more than 20 people are dead. At least two dozen more according to another local official are injured, many of whom are transported to local hospitals.
We also understand from law enforcement on the ground there that the gunman is dead, still unclear whether that is by way of police after a police chase or if that is a self-inflicted mortal wound. It has shaken the community to the core. It is a very small community there. Sutherland Springs roughly 650 people live there. Just about everybody knows everybody.
Joining me right now on the phone, Carrie Matula. She is a Sutherland springs resident.
Carrie, I understand you heard 20 gun shots. Tell me more about what you heard and experienced there.
CARRIE MATULA, SUTHERLAND SPRINGS RESIDENT (on the phone): Well, I was just starting my shift at the store I work at and one of the cashiers was sweeping up outside. And she heard the gun shots first, came running in and said somebody is shooting out here and sounds like a lot. And they were still shooting by the time I got to the door and outside. And we heard (INAUDIBLE) went back inside because didn't want to get hurt. But it was very close and very loud. And at first we thought maybe somebody was target shooting because we do that out here sometimes. But this was semi-automatic fire. This was rapid fire.
And then within the next few minutes we start seeing first responders coming in and ambulances and fire departments and mobile command station and things of that nature. This is a very small town. Everybody knows everybody. This is just devastating. It is going to change the whole dynamic of this area.
[16:20:36] WHITFIELD: And Carrie, so once you saw law enforcement that's when you realized all that gun fire was coming from that first Baptist church just across the street from your store?
MATULA: Right. We were flabbergasted. There is just no reason for something like that to take place especially here where everybody is family, you know. We all help each other out. We all know each other. This is just devastating. It's dumfounding. We are all still kind of in shock and still awaiting news. And they are not able to give us information at this point on people because they don't want to give misleading information.
WHITFIELD: It is stunning. It is hurtful. How worried are you that people you know were in that church at the time?
MATULA: Well, we are worried. We are definitely worried and we are saddened and shocked. We do know some of the people that have passed on that were killed. We were watching in shock and awe, you know. Family members being told that they lost their loved ones. And you know, it's all pretty -- it's indescribable really, it is indescribable the shock and everything that is going on right now. It's just terrible.
WHITFIELD: It is terrible. And you, you know, you just expressed, you know, how this will just change everything for this town. Describe for me this town of Sutherland Springs, what it has meant to you to live there, what it is to, you know, raise families there and have friends and have a business there.
MATULA: That's just it. We moved out here and realized that we were in probably the best place in Texas because everybody knows everybody, you know. We help each other out, you know. You need something all you have to do is call and you will have three or four people at your door ready to help. And you know, to have something like this happen is just unconscionable.
WHITFIELD: Are you hearing anything about who would have done something like this?
MATULA: I'm sorry, could you repeat that?
WHITFIELD: Are you hearing anything about who could have done something like this? Whether people recognized the gunman, saw any portion of the police chase?
MATULA: Well, we didn't see the police chase itself, but we have been hearing rumors but I don't want to say anything at this point because I don't want to get into the investigation or what is taking place but we have an idea of who did this and we don't know why. But it's a small town. So it is going around the rumor mill pretty quick.
WHITFIELD: And of course, you know, rumors and unconfirmed of that information, was it a familiar name person to you based on the rumors you heard?
MATULA: No. I knew family members but not this person personally. Just by name and vice.
WHITFIELD: As you look out the window can you describe for me what you are seeing right now?
MATULA: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you.
WHITFIELD: Sure. As you look out the window of your shop right now at the church, what are you seeing? Can you describe for me?
MATULA: Well, right now, what I'm seeing right now is we have 100 or so people here at the community building at Sutherland Springs. And we have family members, congregation members, friends and neighbors, we have first responders, we have news media pulled back to another location in fact there for the moment. And right now we are just trying to get the Red Cross to assist the families of victims.
WHITFIELD: We had Nannette with the local newspaper, Nannette Kilbey- Smith with us earlier of the Wilson County News. And she was describing the community center as one where family members, friends are to await notice on their loved ones, the status of anyone they know in that church. Have you -- can you describe what you have been seeing in them?
[16:25:11] MATULA: Just shock and dismay and mourning and lots of people praying together and praying for their loved ones and their neighbors and the family members that have lost loved ones and neighbors and you know. This is what we do. When something happens to one of us we come together as a community and this is just showing how strong we are but at the same time we are just shocked. There is no reason for this.
WHITFIELD: Carrie Matula, we are so sorry for your community's loss. What this has done for you as an individual, your friends, your neighbors, how this has shattered an entire community and that church community of first Baptist church.
Thank you so much for your candor, for sharing your thoughts, your observations there and our prayers go out to you and everyone else there.
We will have much more right after this.
[04:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. This breaking news, tragedy in south Texas in Sutherland Springs, Texas at the First Baptist Church. Eyewitnesses say a gunman walked into the church 30 minutes into the scheduled service there and simply unloaded. The Wilson County sheriff says at least 20 people are dead and at least two dozen others are injured. We understand the gunman was pursued during a police chase.
That gunman is dead. Still unclear whether that was the result of a self-inflicted wound or whether police took that individual down. This has rocked a very small community of not even 700. It's a small tight knit town where just about everybody knows one another. A short time ago I spoke on the phone with Dana Fletcher, a small business owner there in Sutherland Springs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA FLETCHER, SUTHERLAND SPRINGS BUSINESS OWNER: And my husband and I are both terribly shaken up, you know, I mean, those people in church on Sunday in a very small rural community, it's just not what you expect.
WHITFIELD: We understand that the scene is still active in terms of a crime scene and investigators are there from federal, state and local jurisdictions. There has been --
FLETCHER: I'm sure. We keep hearing from the news the number keeps increasing as far as how many are injured or possibly deceased. It is such a small church. That's the other part of it that's so sad. It's just a little church in a very small community. I don't know why it would be targeted.
WHITFIELD: Also heartbreaking. Dana Fletcher, thank you so much for your time and so many prayers going out to everyone there in the Sutherland Springs, Texas community.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: It is an active crime scene right now at the First Baptist Church there in Sutherland Springs. On the phone with me now, former ATF executive Matthew Horace. So Matthew, earlier you said it may be hours before this scene is cleared. Why is this so pain staking?
MATTHEW HORACE, FORMER ATF EXECUTIVE, (via telephone): Well, you know, they have to identify all the deceased. They have to recover physical evidence both inside the church and outside the church. They will be examining video tape and they'll also be conducting witness interviews of people who may have been injured or not at the hospital or in the area. There is a lot of work that needs to be done yet.
WHITFIELD: Yes, video tape. We understand from our correspondent Kaylee Hartung's reporting that this is a church that would post on YouTube its services so, presumably there are cameras. We don't know about today's service, but give me an idea about how investigators would handle any kind of videotape material past or perhaps even from today.
HORACE: Well, you know, many churches livestream services every Sunday, Fredricka, so they will obviously take control of any video tape that they can get today. But then as you mentioned, we need to determine how the suspect chose this church to perpetrate this horrendous act.
So, that may involve going back and looking at video tapes from prior Sundays or prior services or even days. So again, there is a lot of work that needs to be done but fortunately for the community and for everyone, the gunman is dead.
WHITFIELD: Yes, and in terms of a relationship you're talking about, right, whether this gunman has been in that church before, if that individual has been recorded in any capacity, if there has been any relationship established perhaps between that gunman and this church.
HORACE: Sure. As the woman told you earlier in a community of 600 people and a very small church, the likelihood is that most people in that area know each other so, someone is going to know who this gunman is unless he is an outlier and the motive is going to be the key and that's what is going to be driving a lot of the investigation and hopefully the investigators are able to determine that motive fairly quickly.
WHITFIELD: Terrible. Sad and tragic. Thank you so much Matthew Horace. Appreciate it. And we'll be right back.
[04:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: We're back. We're continuing to follow breaking news out of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The Wilson County sheriff says 20, at least 20 are dead as a result of a gunman walking into the First Baptist Church just 30 minutes into the scheduled service, Sunday's service today and unloading. Two dozen injured.
The gunman is dead, was part of a police chase and still unclear whether that was a self-inflicted mortal wound or whether he was taken down by the police. Our Kaylee Hartung is here with me now. You've been talking to a number of people there. This is a tragic, horrible event for this very small community.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And an active crime scene still inside First Baptist Church as we see federal, state and local authorities responding to that scene. As was told to me by a witness, a cashier at a gas station just across the street, it was about 30 minutes into the 11:00 a.m. service this morning at First Baptist Church that she heard around 20 shots being fired by what she thought to be a semi-automatic weapon.
Police responded to the scene very quickly. There was then a pursuit of the gunman that ended with the gunman's death. Again, we are unsure if he took his own life or if police took him down, but that gunman dead and at least 20 dead inside First Baptist Church as authorities continue to investigate that scene, a complex scene that will just take time to sort through.
Family members, concerned citizens are gathering at the community building just down the street to ask questions to learn of the fate, if they knew loved ones inside that church
[04:40:00] service this morning. Community in mourning, a community shaken, a community that will be forever changed as a result of this. And as we learned more about First Baptist Church we came to understand that they post each of their church services on a YouTube channel so you would have to think that the video provided there from previous service as well as a video that may exist of today's service will be critical as this investigation moves foward.
WHITFIELD: And at that community center, what a heartbreaking scene being described by one of the local reporters there. Family members awaiting word. We know that a number of people were transported with injuries to nearby hospitals, but that is kind of the central point of finding out whether your loved one remains in that church or whether they have been transported.
HARTUNG: And this is a small town of about 600 maybe 700 people, a town that's been described to both of us as one which everyone knows everyone. So, you can only imagine what people are processing there at this time. And as we've been told by locals there, it's hard for them to get information from authorities --authorities not wanting to share any misinformation but of course having to share the news with families that a loved one was killed inside First Baptist Church.
We are learning as patients are being transported by air and ambulance to local hospitals. We know of eight patients being treated in University Health Hospital in San Antonio and more being treated in Connelly Memorial Medical Center in Floresville. But with San Antonio so close it is nice to think of the resources that are available to an otherwise very small and rural town about 30 miles east of San Antonio.
WHITFIELD: Very quickly, so many jurisdictions descending on that area to try to help get to the bottom of what is taking place, responding to the crime scene and then this police pursuit of the gunman still unclear the identity of the gunman. Still unclear of the identity of the gunman, the circumstances of the death of the gunman, but we do know that at least one gunman is being blamed for this.
HARTUNG: Yes, one single gunman who was pursued by police in what I was told to be a very quick pursuit. It went across county lines from Wilson County into Guadalupe County so it the Guadalupe County Sheriff's Department who informed us of the gunman's death.
But as it's explained to me, the proximity to that county line is just about eight to ten miles from First Baptist Church. The ID of that gunman unknown to u s but of course, officials aware of who that person is and that investigation continues. Of course, motive being the key question for investigators to uncover.
WHITFIELD: All right Kaylee, thank you so much. Let's bring in law enforcement analyst James Gagliano and retired FBI supervisory special agent. So James, we understand FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals, local authorities, state authorities all there. Your experience with the FBI, what portions of the investigation will FBI be tackling here as it pertains to the First Baptist Church shooting.
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well Fred, it obviously begins as a murder investigation and so some of your earlier law enforcement contributors have pointed out, it's in the purview of the state and local officials. Obviously, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm are on scene and once they can determine, you know, a type of motive, it could possibly be taken over at that point in time.
If it is determined to be a hate crime or potentially a terrorist act and we know that those things have very specific definitions before there can actually be the federal government moving in and saying we are going to take control of it. At this juncture, it's going to be assistance and we know that this is a very small place. And Fred I got to tell you, having been out in Las Vegas during the shooting out there on October 1st and being in lower Manhattan just last Tuesday when the terrorist attack happened down there and now this.
It's absolutely chilling to think about it. I was doing some research. This is a small town in Texas of about 683 people making up their population. If the numbers hold to be 20 and we know that those numbers of casualty for deaths are probably going to tick up, we're talking about three percent or four percent of the population of this town. It's absolutely sobering.
WHITFIELD: Yes, it is extraordinary, you know, and you mentioned the Las Vegas mass shooting that just a month ago. I talked to a number of people from that community, here of Sutherland Springs say this has changed everything. This was one of the best Texas communities from one eyewitness that I spoke with. You said, you know, she could find in the state of Texas and now everything will be different.
We have heard from the president of the United States while he is traveling abroad. We have seen tweets coming from Texas senator Ted Cruz, the Texas governor Greg Abbott as well [04:45:00] all sending out prayers. And now we have a tweet from the
mayor of Las Vegas saying, with our greatest sorrow and compassion Las Vegas stands with you and with our hearts are broken and ready to help in any way we can #SutherlandSprings. So James, this really is a concerted effort by law enforcement but this is a tragedy that is touching all corners of this nation at this time.
GAGLIANO: Sure. Fred, to your point that there are a lot of small enclaves in America, America is a wonderful country and there is a lot of places, small towns, small villages that really are the places where time forgot. I mean, people leave doors open, they don't lock their car doors at night. There is just a sense of community.
And after something like this, it's chilling because we typically think of this happening in major metropolitan areas and then it happens in a very small town, you know, just outside of San Antonio and it just goes to show that this type of reach, this type of depravity can happen absolutely anywhere, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Tragically. James Gagliano, thank you so much. Appreciate it. And we'll be right back.
[04:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. A horrific mass shooting taking place at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas -- south Texas. Right now, live pictures of the first press conference to get underway momentarily. Meantime, a short time ago I spoke with Nannette Kilbey- Smith. She is the editor of the Wilson County News and she was on the scene in the aftermath of the shooting and I asked her to describe everything that she had seen.
NANNETTE KILBEY-SMITH, EDITOR, WILSON COUNTY NEWS (via telephone): It's a chaotic scene. Every agency possible from the county and nearby communities descended to actually bring their aid and assistance and make sense of the scene. We have unconfirmed reports of as many as two dozen dead, perhaps with more than 30 that are injured.
These include elderly, young families, young children among the fatalities from what we know. Nothing has been confirmed at this point. This is very much still an active scene and obviously this is the heart of the community and it is taking its toll on the people here.
WHITFIELD: I know it has to be. The heart of the community, population what, just 643 people, a very small intimate community. Nannette, can you describe for me is this place where generally everybody knows one another?
KILBEY-SMITH: Yes. Yes, it is, very much so. Very much so. Everybody knows everybody. They all come out for the different community events.
WHITFIELD: So for you responding to this, covering it as a reporter but also someone who is part of the fabric of the community, this is very personal. How about for first responders who are responding to this tragedy knowing this is such a small, you know, close knit community presumably many of the victims are friends or family members of all of you.
KILBEY-SMITH: They are. It's very personal to all our communities and it's been very difficult for the first responders on the scene.
WHITFIELD: I imagine so. We understand that the gunman is dead and we don't know whether it is self-inflicted or whether this gunman was taken down by police. There was a chase. What can you tell us about this chase that went into the neighboring county just miles away?
WHITFIELD: Very little other than that there was a chase and that the shooter did not survive, but it has not been made clear at this point the manner of that death. We're waiting on official word here on the ground.
WHITFIELD: And Nannette, where are you in terms of proximity to the church right now?
KILBEY-SMITH: I'm a block away from the church. I'm actually sitting outside the local community center which has been turned into a family resource center. This is where the families of the victims are waiting for word.
WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness. So that is a tough place. So, what are you hearing from people as they are awaiting word whether their family members were in there, whether they had been transported? Describe for me what is being expressed by people there.
KILBEY-SMITH: Shock. It's just complete shock. That's all I can say. Just complete disbelief.
WHITFIELD: This has to be particularly difficult for you as, you know, a journalist, you cover the community there but now you're approaching people that you know, loved ones, friends, people that you come into contact with on a regular basis. And you are also a source of information for them, at the same time you are also trying to extend comfort. Describe for me what that has been like for you.
KILBEY-SMITH: I really don't know how to put it into words. I'm here in an official capacity but I'm also here because this is where we live and these are people
[04:55:00] that I know and have known for years. And I offer what comfort and prayers I can in circumstances and sometimes it's not words. You just embrace and offer what comfort you can and how can you comfort in these circumstances.
WHITFIELD: Our hearts go out to Nannette Kilbu-Smith and everyone there in Sutherland Springs, Texas. After a tragic day of a shooting taking place in the First Baptist Church today, Wilson County sheriff saying at least 20 dead, maybe two dozen injured. The gunman is dead. Still unclear whether that was the result of a self-inflicted wound or taken down by police following a police chase.
You are looking at live pictures right now nearby Stockdale, Texas. The first press conference to get underway momentarily as it pertains to all details of what is now on an ongoing investigation of what happened today in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Thanks so much for being with me this afternoon. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We will continue to follow this story throughout the evening. The "Newsroom" continues after this.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. We begin with major breaking news. More than 20 people are dead, dozens injured after a gunman opened fire inside a small Texas church. Here is the latest information. This all took place around 11:30 this morning local time when a witness reported hearing about 20 shots fired in quick successions.
It was in the middle of Sunday service at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. That's east of San Antonio, and we are told the gunman died after a brief chase. Now, we don't know if he was killed by police or if he took his own life.
[05:00:00] A lot of unanswered questions tonight. We don't know if he was a member of the community. We don't know why he might have done this.