Return to Transcripts main page


Texas Officials Give Update On Church Shooting. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 7, 2017 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:02] JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: -- Washington. If there were ever an almanac of all things Donald Trump, well Keith Schiller would be it. Today the long-time Trump buddy man and former director of Oval Office operations, those before the House Intelligence Committee. The latest interview ongoing probe of meddling by Russia in the 2016 election. It's a not a big day for the committee.

Just yesterday it released a 208 page transcript of its interview with Carter Page. I want to interrupt you. Let's take a straight down to Sutherland Springs, Texas.

FREEMAN MARTIN, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: First, there's three things that we're not going to discuss today and number one, we're not going to discuss the motive. We have released that the shooter was at odds with his in-laws, we have released that the mother-in-law went to church here and we have released that there was a conflict between those two families. We're only 48 hours into this investigation. Interviews on ongoing and things we that release in these press conferences could affect future interviews.

In addition to that we have the suspect's cell phone. We have executed a search warrant on that cell phone and that cell phone has been turned over to the FBI for analysis. FBI special agent in charge Chris Combs is here and surely he's going to discuss that.

Another thing we're not going to discuss today is the names of the victims inside the church. We believe we have everyone properly identified and we have notified all the next of kin. However, the medical examiner's office is confirming our findings and they will give us permission to release those names and we hope to have that later today or tomorrow at the latest.

And the last thing that we're not prepared to discuss is the suspect and his release from the air force. We would refer all those questions back to the air force. With that, first up is going to be special agent in charge of ATF, Fred Milanowski and he has an update on the firearms.

FRED MILANOWSKI, ATF SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Thanks. Good morning everyone. Two updates from ATF. One is as far as the rifle goes, the Ruger 556, ATF firearms expert examined that rifle yesterday. All indications are that that is a -- not a fully automatic weapon. It is a semiautomatic weapon. We will not know 100 percent sure until we actually test-fire it but all indications now it is a semiautomatic weapon. I wanted to clear that up because that's been reported couple different ways in the media.

The second thing is ATF agents have acquired shell casings from the scene. So shell casings will be entered into ATF's National Integrated Ballistic Identification Network and that will help us determine if that rifle was used in any other shootings. Thank you very much. I'll answer any questions at the end. Thank you.

CHRISTOPHER COMBS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Good morning everybody. I'm Christopher Combs, the FBI SIOC here in San Antonio. As the commander stated, the phone of the subject was turned over to us. We flew that on a DPS plane last night to Quantico. They're in the process of looking at the phone.

Unfortunately, at this point in time, we are unable to get into that phone. So it actually highlights an issue that you've all heard about before with the advance of the technology and the phones and the encryptions, law enforcement whether it's at the state, local or federal level is increasingly not able to get into these phones. So I'm not going to describe what phone it is because I don't want to tell every bad guy out there what phone to buy to harass our efforts on trying to find justice here.

I can assure you that we're working very hard to get into the phone and that will continue until we find an answer. I don't know how long that's going to be to be quite honest with you. It could be tomorrow, it could be a week, it could be a month. We just don't know yet. We're going to keep working on the phone and the other digital media that we have and we can turn that over to the rangers. Thank you.

MARTIN: Obviously this is a massive crime scene and we have the best of the best process in this crime scene. It's a long process. And like I said we're only 48 hours into this. The Texas rangers and the FBI, evidence recovery team have worked day and night and today the commander for the Texas Rangers Cory Lane is here to speak.

CORY LANE, COMPANY COMMANDER IN CHARGE: Good morning. Again my name is Cory Lane, company commander in charge of this crime scene processing. Just want to go over a few things, resources that we have dedicated right now. Mainly the work force personnel that's processing this crime scene. We have 136 commissioned officers dedicated to the crime scene processing are support of that mission.

Forty-nine of those, 136 are the best of the best rangers that we have. They're part of our major crime scene investigative team. They don't get on that team by accident. They have to show two things which is talent and drive for -- to be a part of a crime scene and interest in crime scene investigation.

The team leads of that investigative team have all graduated the National Forensic Academy in Tennessee and that's on top of their three week basic crime scene investigation training that they received that every ranger receives from the Department of Public Safety. These rangers also continually attend advanced crime scene investigation courses to stay ahead of the curve on any updates or advances in crime scene investigation. Like the director said, these were 48 hours into this and these men and women who are dedicated to processing such complex and massive scene have worked tirelessly and is nothing short of inspiring. So that's all that I have.

MARTIN: Audrey Louis is the district attorney for the 81st judicial district. Even though the suspect is deceased in this case, she has been out here every day working with the community and working with our victim services from all agencies including the Department of Public Safety and she's here to give a brief.

AUDREY LOUIS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, 81ST JUDICIAL DISTRICT: Good morning. We've had an outpouring from around the world of people concerned with the burdens that these families have with funeral expenses. And I want to give you a little bit of peace of mind to understand that the attorney general's office has victim specialists along with FBI victim services, DPS and our office that working with these families, one-on-one.

And we have the attorney general's office here because they have crime victim's compensation fund that they are in charge of. That fund releases money for the victim's families including funeral expenses. Those funeral expenses, the amount of funding for each victim is $6500 we believe that that's going to be sufficient funeral costs for the victim's family so they will not be burdened with that financial portion of their loss and they can concentrate on trying to grieve and process what else is going on in their world at this time.

In addition to that, there has been a company that has come forward and agreed to donate the caskets to all of the victims. And we are grateful for that person and their service to our community and their heart and being willing to donate that. So those people who are concerned with that initial burden that these families have as we all are. We have a crime victim's compensation fund that it in place for that purpose. And it's being utilized and streamlined to ensure that the victims are not burdened with that initial funeral expense. So thank you very much.

MARTIN: With that, I have a few questions that were submitted by the media that we will answer and then we'll open it up to question and answers. The first one was why was a concealed handgun license denied for the suspect? That's protected information. All I can tell you is that he did not have a concealed handgun license.

When will the investigation conclude and when will the church reopen? As far as the church reopening, that's a question for somebody else. We hope to finish up the crime scene investigation and all the forensic analysis by tomorrow night. And then that will be turned back over to the local officials.

Were any other persons involved? We have no reason to believe or no information that anybody else was involved in this crime. There are some question about the pregnant female inside the church. Again, she's one of the victims inside the church and we're not prepared to release any information regarding the victims inside the church until we get confirmation from the medical exam results. There was a question regarding domestic terrorism. By definition, we have no reason to believe that this crime was politically motivated or motivated based on religious beliefs. We have no reason to believe that.

There was questions regarding the suspect's mother-in-law. She was not in the church. She does attend this church but we know on Sunday when this crime occurred, she was not in church. Beyond that, there were some questions regarding the weapons purchase, I believe those were answered.

Some questions regarding search warrants. We are executing search warrants, such as the evidence search warrant on the cell phone. But with that, that's all I have and I'll open it up to for questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you have to been very carefully. Can you tell us not answer certain questions. I would like to ask a general question (INAUDIBLE). In the issue of (INAUDIBLE) I'm asking with the specifics.

[12:40:01] Do investigators however, believe they have a handle, they believe they know what the motive is without telling us what it is?

MARTIN: There's still a lot of evidence (ph) to be done. We have some indication on what the conflict was between the family, you know, the timing and stuff like that. Still a lot of work to be done. As I said it's only 48 hours into this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can someone be denied the right to investigate denying (ph) weapon. It's OK to purchase weapon?

MARTIN: That's -- we have database that we check, TCIC/NCIC.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I understand it's the law but can you explain to me the rationale between being able to --

MARTIN: I can tell you what is required and there was nothing in our databases that precluded him from purchasing a firearm.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- reconstructed. What time did the first shot happen? How long did the incident last? How many shots (INAUDIBLE)?

MARTIN: I don't have that at this time. I can tell you when the first call came in the Wilson County sheriff's office arrived within four minutes. I can tell you four minute is a long time during an active shooter situation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have the 911 tape?

MARTIN: That will be up to the sheriff's office and (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the status of the ex-wife and child? MARTIN: I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the status about his ex-wife -- Kelley's ex wife and the step child.

MARTIN: I don't have that information.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, the President has said that hundreds more people would have arrested (INAUDIBLE) that your assessment that here would have been hundreds more? And secondly, that more extreme vetting would have prevented this shooter?

MARTIN: I don't know about the vetting. But we can only speculate. We don't know what he thinking what was in his mind and what his future plans were. But, you know, this is a situation where I wouldn't be willing to take that risk and, you know, in my opinion, I said the other day that Mr. Willeford, I believe he's a hero.

I've seen no media since this started. But somebody sent me a clip of an interview that he did with the media and how could you not love that guy. You know, that guy did what he knew needed to be done. And -- but as far as his future plans and what he had planned for the rest of the day, and if there would have been more deaths, you know, it's all speculation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would better vetting kind of prevented the gunman from getting his weapon?

MARTIN: I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard that shooter was here last Tuesday for the fall festival here. Did he have any confrontations with any of the people here?

MARTIN: I don't have that information.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- where the entire congregation was injured or killed?

MARTIN: I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the entire congregation, are they injured or killed?

MARTIN: You know, we believe the congregation at this church is roughly just over 50. You know, we know how many were deceased and how many were shot. There were very few that were here that were uninjured.

(OFF-MIC) MARTIN: I don't have that information.


MARTIN: I would, you know, I would refer that to ATF.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the gunman -- sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, couple of things. Did he use a (INAUDIBLE) with 15 clips, 30 rounds in a clip. Is it possible that he shot 450 rounds (INAUDIBLE)? So did he (INAUDIBLE).

MILANOWSKI: Now, first part of that is the (INAUDIBLE) part of the investigation, we will not release that. There's no evidence of a bump stock being used.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, is it possible he fired 450 rounds?

MILANOWSKI: Again, part of the investigation. That is not going to get released publicly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) someone said, all the magazine were empty by the end of this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifteen times 30 is 450 shots. So if they were all empty? I'm assuming that they were full?

MILANOWSKI: The -- what was talk about yesterday is that the shell -- the -- I'm sorry, magazines at the scene were empty. So I don't believe there was a number put out.


MILANOWSKI: They're not -- we're just not going to put that information. That was part of the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any information --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is reported that the shooting from a roof top of this one initially. Any comment on that?


MARTIN: I'm sorry. I didn't hear you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, how about premeditation, do you have any specific or do you have any evidence when he began to plan this --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- do this. MARTIN: We do not at this time. And to answer your question, we have no information that he was shooting from a rooftop. We don't have any facts to support that. We're the fact-finders and we're collecting the facts as we find them we --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you speak about what the shooting position he had was?

MARTIN: He changed position. He walked, he moved. And as far as the magazines, you know, they're 30 round capacity magazines. How many he had in those magazines, a lot of that trajectory work is being done this morning. So we can't answer that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- was it a week ago? What is the timeline (INAUDIBLE)?

[12:45:05] MARTIN: Again, we will know more when we're able to exploit his phone.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- threatening anybody else in his (INAUDIBLE)?


[12:45:04] MARTIN: Again, we will know more when we're able to exploit his phone.


MARTIN: I can't -- a lot of that that the vehicles already been processed and secured. As far as his home, I believe those have already been conducted. Whether they were consensual searches or search warrants I can't answer to that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has there been any indication that the shooter made a targeted threat towards this church or gun violence towards the course of (INAUDIBLE)?

MARTIN: Again, that gets into the investigation and we know that there was conflict. He was upset with the mother-in-law. But beyond that, I can't comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it comes to the phone, are you asking for the tech companies to help you open it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that you investigate when people get (INAUDIBLE) in right about that. But he have ever at any time on a radar for the FBI?

COMBS: So I can tell you that he is not in any FBI database. We have not had any investigations on him previous to this event. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It scores to telephone, I know in San Bernardino you ended up having a super (INAUDIBLE) are you soliciting other super (INAUDIBLE)?

COMBS: So I can tell you at this time we're still working on it. We have partners that we work with on these things. I think it goes to complexity and how hard the problem is and how long it's going to take. But we will get into that phone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now everyone knows that an iPhone is one of the phones that it (INAUDIBLE) in this regard. Is that an iPhone?

COMBS: I will not describe the type of phone because again, I don't want to encourage bad people to buy it. I'm not going to talk about what kind of phone it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you kind of just not talk about it soft targets with your concern about soft target, the sheriff (INAUDIBLE) county is making a seminar available for churches to talk about security. Are we at that point?

COMBS: So I've done a lot on active shooters through the years. You know, you look at the numbers, the numbers were on the rise. I think everybody no matter where you are needs to think about this.

If you're in a school, you're in a college, if you go to the movies we should all be thinking about what are we going to do if a crisis breaks out right here. There are a lot of programs out there. The FBI supports programs.

We teach law enforcement, there's a private community programs out there. But I we ought to think very hard about this and make sure that we're prepared. Just like schools do fire drills because we used to kill a lot of children in fires back in the early 1900s. I think we all to take after shooter very seriously, do everything we can to prepare and prevent for that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, can you tell me on how he denied a license to carry and still able to purchase a gun?

COMBS: That's not my discipline. I'm sorry.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have (INAUDIBLE) the funeral homes that has offered to assist (INAUDIBLE). Does that mean it means don't come for cost. What does that mean for the $6500 for the victim it cost like (INAUDIBLE) and something like, because I think the number one --

LOUIS: We're working in partnership with all of the local funeral homes to ensure that our victims are not out of pocket and are not burdened by the cost of the funerals. So that is -- our hope is that the funeral homes will work with the victims to make sure that it does not go above that cost. I can't promise that to them at this point but we are working in partnership with the funeral homes. They're aware of the situation and they don't want to revictimize our victims as well. So --


LOUIS: That same crime victims' compensation is also available for the victims who are suffering injuries that have medical expenses in thing like that. And so they will work with the attorney generals office, our office, FBI, DPS to ensure they are go through the process to have that compensated as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any idea what the funeral --


LOUIS: I'm sorry?





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does it include any other unborn children.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any idea when the funerals will begin?

LOUIS: When the funerals will begin? That I do not know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) are you able to answer my question. How many unborn children?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So all of the 26 one is an unborn child?


COMBS: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) decide that getting forward information from the funeral. Had this happened before? Is this a problem from the military air force? Have you had this issue come up from other agencies not providing the critical information (INAUDIBLE)?

COMBS: Unfortunate this has happened in the happen from a number of agencies. Nothing is perfect. I would refer you to a press release that our headquarters put out from our C.J.'s (ph) division that handles the next checks and it gives you some particular percentages and how the problem is being addressed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were told last night this was bigger than a domestic dispute, and he had an issue with his mother-in-law that he wouldn't have come here and killed so many people. Is there any indication it was tied to (INAUDIBLE).

MARTIN: Not that I'm aware of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Do we have timeline as far as when he started shooting them and he'd start shooting from the outside of the chapel and he started when he walk into the chapel (INAUDIBLE) that was that yet?

MARTIN: I don't have an exact time. He arrived - he was seen at the Valero. We know he went to the church and he exited. He's fired into the front of the church. He moved to the side of the church, continued to fire then he entered the church and continued to fire.

But as far as the exact time, I think, you know, with the 911 calls we can tell you the first call that came in and with our good samaritan, of course, you know, he was there. We know when the call came in within four minutes the Wilson County sheriff's office arrived on scene, but as far as the exact time of the first shot I can't answer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that the phone he used to call his father?

MARTIN: I believe so, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One last question, how many victims there were in critical condition?

MARTIN: We have 10 that remain in critical condition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming out this afternoon. We will keep you updated through the DPS twitter as well

as through our and e-mail, please.

[12:51:21] KING: You've been listening there to a briefing by law enforcement officials in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Let me bring in our CNN Crime and Justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz. Shimon, to me, in place here the expert that tell me if I'm wrong.

The most significant thing I heard was that the shooter's cell phone has been sent on a plane to the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Virginia, but the FBI expressing pro-hand frustration that they have not been able to crack it because of encryption technology. Obviously they believe on the cell phone are many key details into how this crime was planned. Whether the shooter was in touch either with other people are using his phone to get information on things. How significant is that?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, it's pretty significant, and for the FBI at this point to come out and say that so soon. It tells you how important having access to that phone is to them. It helps build a timeline. They can put together a better profile of him.

There could be people he was talking to, texting whatever it may be, e-mailing perhaps that they don't know about -- that they may want to talk to. And this is really about putting together a timeline. And while they don't think there is any other shooter or he wasn't working with anyone else, it's still important for them to be able to build a profile on him. Collect his movement.

And we know that this has been an issue for the FBI, even the current FBI Director Chris Ray. I watched him speak just about two weeks ago in Philadelphia at a chief conference and he raised this issue there. So this is definitely high priority for the FBI and continues to be and we'll see if they actually try to go to court to get -- they're not saying who this phone -- what company this phone is with. But clearly we probably will know soon and it will be interesting if they try to seek any kind of court action to get access on his phone.

They have lost previously, but we'll see. I mean, they have companies they can work with and they're going to try to get enough phone and the special agent in charge there vowing saying we are going to get into that phone. But it's a vital piece of evidence and they need to get in that phone they say.

KING: Also striking where he said he wouldn't identify what kind of phone it is within --


KING: -- the bad guys. Another thing I found interesting is the spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, saying that he would not answer why. The question was asked yesterday why was the shooter denied a concealed permit carry for a handgun but obviously we know the air force blew it. We know there's an investigation going on as to why the air force didn't put him in the database that would have prevented him from buying weapons.

But somebody in Texas saw something and they would not disclose what it was that made them deny him the concealed handgun permit. Is the likelihood there that somebody in Texas knew something about him that obviously was not entered in the database otherwise?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, that could be or could have been, you know, wherever he went in or whoever he was dealing with to get this carrier permit may have seen something suspicious, may not have like something, but we don't know. you know, when I was talking to law enforcement officials yesterday about that issue, they weren't even sure the circumstances about that.

So we just don't know and they're not revealing. And the other thing, John, they're still not revealing what this dispute, what this family conflict was over because I'm not even sure investigators are 100 percent certain what that conflict is. It was something that they're still looking at and even yesterday they were saying, you know, it's not very clear to the family who has been speaking with investigators what the conflict was over.

KING: And one other point, you're right, they just said that they have some information, they're still looking, they said only 48 hours. We need more time to get into it. They also confirmed again that the mother-in-law, although we had the most profound competency was not at church at the time. Also struck me, and this is a tad morbid I guess to say, 136 officers at that church combing the crime scene.

[12:55:03] They won't disclose how many rounds they believe were fired except they do say just the magazines on the scene were all empty. Meaning many rounds -- that you have 136 officers combing a very small church of a crime scene tells you how gruesome this is, does it not?

PROKUPECZ: Yes. And the special agent in charge yesterday Chris Combs said how he basically described how the scene and what it looked like and just horrific in nature. So it's also very emotional for these officers and these investigators who go into this. So sometimes you to pull off certain officers out and pull officers and bring back officers and you have to assume there's a lot of blood in there.

You know, and initially when they responded there were bodies, children. So it takes a huge toll on the officers. This is a small community. So, you know, perhaps some of these officers may have even known some of the victims. So you have to keep that in mind as well. And really this is, you know, they kind of do these scenes and they process these crime scenes because it's important element in figuring out what happened here.

KING: Amen to that. Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate your insights after that very instructive briefing from law enforcement officials. Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow.

Wolf Blitzer continues our coverage after a quick break.