More Than 20 Killed In Shooting At A Southern Texas Baptist Church

Nov 5, 2017
Originally published on November 5, 2017 5:32 pm
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NOEL KING, HOST:

All this hour, we've been following news of a mass shooting in the small town of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Here's what we do know. Sometime around 11:30 a.m. local time, a gunman opened fire at a Baptist church. We know there has been a massive police response. There's still a lot we don't know. We're waiting on an official press conference to get more details. In the meantime, I'm joined in studio by NPR's Colin Dwyer, who's been monitoring this story. Thanks, Colin.

COLIN DWYER, BYLINE: Of course.

KING: Also with us is NPR's Ryan Lucas, who covers the Department of Justice. Ryan, thanks for coming in.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Thank you.

KING: Colin, what is the latest information?

DWYER: So the latest information is we do know that upward of 25 people have been killed in this shooting. We do know that the shooter, himself, is dead. We don't know for sure, at the moment, whether he was killed or whether he killed himself shortly after that shooting. We don't know if that 25 number includes the shooter, himself, either. We do know a little bit about the church itself. We are getting to know this small, white, wood-framed building in many of these videotaped shots.

According to its website - you mentioned that the shooter came in around 11:30, we believe. Well, according to its website, one of its services typically begins around 11:00 a.m. So it is likely that there were worshipers in this place of worship at the time. We do know that probably about 40 people were inside. And, unfortunately, we do know also that this church regularly records its services and posts them on YouTube.

KING: And why is that?

DWYER: So they often shared these videotaped services with those parishioners who can't attend. And on the one hand, of course, it is horrific to think that this incident was videotaped and that people will be able to watch it. On the other hand, it might offer authorities clues as to how the shooter conducted himself during this attack. And maybe that might offer some clues as to why he did this. One of those things that we don't know right now is motive.

KING: We don't know motive. Ryan Lucas, we do know there is an FBI presence on the scene. What does the FBI do in a case like this?

LUCAS: Well, the FBI and the ATF - the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives - they are both there. And what they do - I mean, this is a small town outside of San Antonio. About 600-700 people live there. It's not going to be a large police department. It's not going to have the sort of capabilities and resources to conduct an investigation of something of this scale. I mean, we're talking - we have confirmed from a local official a death toll of 26.

I mean, this is going to be quite a crime scene. And putting the pieces together, mapping out what happened, and then conducting an investigation off of that is generally going to be beyond the capabilities of a small-town police department. And so what the FBI and the ATF can do is bring in their expertise, their resources and basically help local authorities figure out what happened.

KING: Colin was telling us that this church - this small church - videotapes some of its services. We have a clip from a service last month. Let me play that for you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So many times in the midst of things in our lives, so many times in the midst of circumstances and situations that doesn't seem right to us, we try to take over and do what we think should be done, rather than waiting to see how God's going to work it out. That's why it's so direly important - we talked about this in Sunday school somewhat this morning - so direly important to seek God's face, God's direction and do what God has you to do. In other words, lean on his understanding.

KING: Just heartbreaking to hear that in light of what has gone on at that church today. Ryan, what is the FBI going to be looking for? We heard from a reporter based in San Antonio that there may be a police unit headed to the shooter's house, which may indicate that they know who he is. What kinds of clues will be - will they be looking for when it comes to motive - why he did this, when he did this? If he is indeed a he, I should say. In fact, we don't know that yet.

LUCAS: Whoever the suspect may be, what they are going to try to determine is, as Colin noted, the motive - why did he decide to enter a church and shoot a bunch of parishioners? That's question number one. They're also going to want to know whether he worked alone. Were there other people who knew what he was going to do?

So they're going to want to talk to family members, friends, see - kind of build a picture of what's happened over the past couple of weeks and figure out - and then, weapons. This is where the ATF will be helpful. What weapon did he use? And then, tracing whether he purchased that weapon legally, where he got it. That's all stuff that federal authorities can help out with. Now, just because the FBI and the ATF are there does not mean that they are taking over the investigation. They can help local authorities in the investigation, but just the mere presence of federal authorities does not mean that this is a federal case.

KING: NPR's Ryan Lucas, who covers the Department of Justice and NPR's Colin Dwyer. Thank you guys both so much for coming in. We'll be keeping track of this story as details continue to roll in here. Thank you.

DWYER: Thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.