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26 Dead in Texas Church Shooting. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired November 5, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:00:41] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're on the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for joining us.
Our breaking news this hour, more than 20 people are dead after a mass shooting at this church in Texas. These are live images, aerials from our affiliate in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where this happened. A tiny community described as a one blinking light kind of town. It's about 30 miles east of San Antonio. Witnesses reported hearing about 20 shots fired in quick succession during the church service at the First Baptist this morning.
CNN has confirmed one of the victims killed in this tragedy was the pastor's 14-year-old daughter. The FBI is now on scene. We are told the shooter died after a brief chase into a neighboring county.
Again, these pictures are live, that's why you see that blinking -- that image going on and off, but we want to show you the very latest as this investigation is now into its fifth hour. It's unclear if the shooter was killed by police or if he took his own life.
President Trump offering his support from abroad tweeting this. "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."
Let's bring in CNN's Kaylee Hartung. She has been following this story from the very beginning.
Kaylee, as we await this press conference that's supposed to happen, you're learning some new information. What can you tell us?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am, Ana. Federal, state, and local authorities working together on the ground in Sutherland Springs, and also communicating at the highest levels.
You just mentioned that tweet from President Trump. Well, now we know that he has spoken with Texas's Governor Abbott about the shooting.
We've just received a statement from White House press secretary Sarah Sanders who says, "The president has been briefed several times and is continuing to receive regular updates on the tragic shooting in Texas. The president spoke with Governor Abbott earlier this morning. We will keep you posted as we can share more details. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the friends and families affected. May God comfort them all in this time of tragedy."
President Trump of course in the middle of his 12-day, five-country tour through Asia but keeping a handle on what is unfolding in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
CABRERA: Kaylee, as we are trying to piece together exactly what happened, investigators have not shared much information at this point. The sheriff telling us, though, at least 20 people are killed.
We are hearing from some of the witnesses in that town and we are now getting a key piece of information that the FBI may have as evidence. They may be looking at whether this shooting was captured on camera because this church typically records services and posts it online. And we now have an example of one of these videos.
I stress this is not from this weekend's service. This one is from last weekend. Again, not from today but we can see now what it looks like inside this church. So watch this.
CABRERA: So, again, this is video from inside one of the church services, not the one from today, where this horrible shooting took place but this is inside First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Kaylee, we are hearing from witnesses. What are you learning about this community and what happened there today?
HARTUNG: An incredibly tight knit community, Ana. As you could see in the video from last weekend's church services, this is a community of friends and neighbors. And so much concern from those in the community today that they can only imagine they knew someone in the church this morning. But as it was relayed to me from a witness, a cashier from a gas station just 50 yards away from this church, it was around 11:30 this morning when she first heard shots fired.
She said she estimated to hear about 20 shots. And she said it sounded to her like it was the work of an automatic weapon. We're now hearing the stories of the shock and the grief as members of that community are learning more information just as we are. But the community center in that neighborhood is being used as a rallying point for people to gather information, learn more information from authorities but also to take comfort. This community coming together, supporting one another.
[18:05:02] We're talking about a community of 600 to 700 people. Again everyone described it as a town where everybody knows everybody. Well, all of those folks who know each other needing each other through this tragic time.
CABRERA: Kaylee Hartung in Atlanta staying on top of this story. We do have crews en route to the scene. And of course they will join us as soon as they arrive.
Thank you so much for that, Kaylee. As we have reported, the church where this shooting happened records
its sermon, posts them on YouTube. Videos like this could offer key evidence as investigators try to search for a motive.
With us to explain more now, CNN law enforcement analyst James Gagliano. He is a retired FBI supervisory agent for the FBI.
So, James, it's pretty morbid to think that this shooting may have been recorded but I imagine that would be very helpful to investigators.
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Absolutely. Again it could go -- it could speak to motive. I mean, was this individual that perpetrated this heinous act, was he a member of the congregation? Had he ever been to that church before? They'll go back and they'll pool all the other video tapes that have been posted to try to see if they can find him there.
And then yes, just speaking to the tactical presence that he had or how he conducted the shooting rampage, that's going to be important for law enforcement along with a whole host of other things.
We know that the local police department is working this. The -- in Texas their state police is or the Texas Rangers, they've been around since 1823. Fantastically professional organization. They'll help out and I'm sure handle some of the evidence collection as well and then the FBI.
This looks like it is probably going to move into the realm of a case that the FBI will take the lead on. We still have to be careful. We don't know what the motive was. Small church. Population in that town of 683 people. We know that this casualty count is going to climb.
Unfortunately, Ana, as you pointed out a number of people in critical condition and I think we really need to take a step back as we are and be very, very careful.
GAGLIANO: This press conference that's upcoming is going to be key to giving us some answers here going forward.
CABRERA: And again we will be bringing that to our viewers live as soon as that begins. But you talk about the FBI and the ATF being on scene. These are federal agencies. But you point out that this is such a small town and you believe that's the primary reason that these federal investigators are involved at least on the onset.
GAGLIANO: Absolutely because obviously the federal government has plenty more resources, whether it's personnel resources or material resources. So in an instance like this, my understanding, I don't think the FBI has a small satellite office close there because San Antonio is so close and we have a field division there.
There's 56 FBI field divisions around the country. And obviously San Antonio will be the quickest. They would launch folks primarily from the investigative standpoint as well as the crime scene folks.
On the federal side we refer to those folks as evidence response team members. And you're probably going to see those folks on scene here with the blue shirts, FBI ERT on the back collecting shell casings, collecting any other type of forensic evidence that's going to be found inside that church and outside the church.
CABRERA: What are the biggest questions you have right now?
GAGLIANO: It always goes to motive because, again, as you try to get in front of these things, this is -- it's chilling and sobering that October 1st we had Las Vegas.
CABRERA: I know.
GAGLIANO: And that horrific tragedy, 58 people killed, 500 injured. Last Tuesday eight people killed mowed down on the West Side Highway. And then today, and we know that we're talking about 20 plus. The investigators and the folks are very careful right now about releasing the numbers but, Ana, we know how this happens. We know that this is going to -- that casualty count is going to increase.
And in a place with 683 people, they lost 3 percent to 4 percent of their population in this one horrific event. We go to houses of worship for peace and sanctity. We don't go there expecting something horrific like this to happen.
CABRERA: So who are investigators talking to right now? What would they be looking at?
GAGLIANO: Everybody. First of all, the scene of the car. We assume that the perpetrator was in a car when he was either interdicted or took his own life. They are combing that car right now. First of all they're going to be checking for booby-traps because you've got to keep the investigators and the police safe. They'll do that.
Then they'll be looking for any type of forensic evidence there. Any type of, you know, manifesto that would speak to motive, you know, a handwritten note. Anything that might indicate that there were some co-conspirators. That's critical.
GAGLIANO: Because the co-conspirators could potentially be planning -- and I'm not saying that this is what's happening, we don't know this.
GAGLIANO: But can be planning other attacks. We want to make sure to mitigate that first, make sure that we can come out at a press conference and say to the public, we know that this was a single person, a single evil act and the public is safe going forward. And then we want to piece together the reasoning behind this. And obviously the human intelligence you get from speaking to the witnesses, the people that were tragically inside that church but that did survive and then going back and collecting up and harvesting all the digital exhaust. What did he do online? And find out are there any answers or any keys to explain why this happened?
CABRERA: Right now we don't have the identity.
CABRERA: Officials are not confirming the name or anything about the suspect.
[18:10:03] Hopefully that's something we might learn come this press conference. As soon as that begins again we will bring that to our viewers and that could happen at any moment. We'll continue to monitor that for you.
But, James, what we do know is at least one person was just 14 years old. One of the victims. One of the 20. We know there are multiple people fighting for their lives. Another witness saying she knows three children who are in the hospital right now who suffered injuries.
Does that tell you anything about the mindset of this person, this attacker?
GAGLIANO: Again, a house of worship, a church, a synagogue, a mosque. These places are where we go for peace and sanctity, and they are the softest of soft targets. There is no screening process to get in. There are no metal detectors, there are no armed guards there. We don't have that in the United States.
This is a country that prides itself on protecting civil liberties and making sure that our citizens enjoy all the freedoms that they want. You can worship where you want. Nobody can tell you where you can worship or you can't worship.
Inside that church no one would be expecting something like this. And that's what makes it so particularly degenerate and depraved that the shooter picked this particular location to do it.
CABRERA: The shooter came in, opened fire, apparently left the church. There was a brief chased, we've learned with officials. What does that tell you? The fact that he didn't take his own life inside the church.
GAGLIANO: Again, every one of these incidents -- and again, we talk about how it's far too often that we're needing to talk about these things.
GAGLIANO: The paradigm has shifted where, you know, we've noticed of recent, I say of recent, in the last 10 years that the need for negotiation, I'm not saying that negotiators are obsolete, or that you don't need to have hostage negotiators, but typically these events happen, people are either looking to kill themselves, or martyr themselves, or commit suicide by cop or take their own lives. They don't particularly have an escape plan in place. That's not --
you know, we talk about this in Vegas. Was the shooter trying to escape? We saw the guy that committed the vehicular homicides on the West Side Highway. Was he trying to escape when he jumped out of the car? Probably not.
In this instance, the shooter jumped in his car. He had to know that there'd be a huge drag net. He had to know that the police are going to be on his heels pretty quickly. Had to know that it was going to end some way probably horrifically.
It's just -- it's unfortunate that the shooter was not taken alive. We're glad that he was interdicted and put down. But it's unfortunate because I'm sure there would have been a treasure trove of information that seasoned investigators could have gotten by talking to him about what causes -- what premeditated, you know, activity. What was going on in his mind that caused him to want to do something so horrific.
CABRERA: And maybe there are answers to those questions that we just don't know. We don't know what the evidence is that these investigators may have at this point.
James Gagliano, thank you so much for staying with us and providing a little bit of an understanding of how this investigation may be unfolding right now.
We continue to bring you some images from this town where this happened. Sutherland Springs, Texas, just hundreds of people who live in this community, not even 1,000 members of this community. People who are in the community tell us that it's the kind of place where everybody knows everybody and a lot of people are hurting right now tonight.
We'll continue to bring you the latest information out of Texas and this mass shooting that happened today. At least 20 people killed and many more injured after a gunman opened fire inside a small church.
We'll be right back. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[18:17:43] CABRERA: Continuing to follow breaking news. These are live pictures right now from Sutherland Springs, Texas. An investigation underway into the shooting death of at least 20 people inside a small Texas church today. And we are expecting to hear from President Trump tonight on the Texas mass shooting. We are just learning the president has spoken to Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
The president keeping close tabs on this situation in Texas from thousands of miles away in Japan right now. He is on the first leg of his historic trip from Asia where he is expected to focus on trade, and the North Korea threat and now this. The president's announcing earlier that he will meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, this week to discuss North Korea's rogue regime and its growing nuclear weapons program.
Let's go live to Tokyo, and Jim Acosta, CNN senior White House correspondent.
Jim, what are you hearing from the White House tonight regarding this mass shooting?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, we are waking up to this horrific news in Texas. And the president, as you said, is receiving updates from his team here in Tokyo.
They have put out a statement courtesy of the White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. We can put that up on screen and share that with you. It's pretty much the statement that you see after all of these types of tragic mass shootings.
Here it is from Sarah Sanders. "The president has been briefed several times and is continuing to receive regular updates on the tragic shooting in Texas. The president spoke with Governor Abbott earlier this morning. We will keep you posted as we can share more details. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the friends and families affected. May God comfort them all in this time of tragedy."
Now we should point out the president is expected to make some remarks at the top of the next hour here in Tokyo. He was supposed to address business leaders here from U.S. and Japan. And there is a chance that the president may comment on what's happened in Texas at that event but later on this afternoon, Ana, the president and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are scheduled to hold a news conference and our expectation is, he doesn't speak about the incident in Texas that he's expected to do it at this news conference later on this afternoon.
And of course we'll all be watching to see what the president has to say about this. You'll recall after the Las Vegas mass shooting about a month ago the president was hesitant to get into this discussion of gun control, gun safety laws. He said, well, let's wait. Let's talk about that at a later date.
[18:20:06] That discussion never happened. And you're seeing critics of the nation's gun laws already chiming in and saying, it's time to have that discussion again.
And of course, Ana, another one of these terrible mass shootings has put that issue front and center. And the president is going to have to deal with it during this foreign trip here in Asia -- Ana.
CABRERA: Jim, do you know what the president's plans for the rest of the day as you laid out could still change as a result of the mass shooting in Texas?
ACOSTA: We don't expect that to happen. I think the real question is because, you know, this event has really, you know, intervened on the president's itinerary on his plans for the day, there is a possibility that we could hear from him on all of this within the next hour. We don't anticipate that happening. We haven't been told that that's going to happen. There's just the potential for that to happen.
But he does have that news conference later on this afternoon. And of course, we thought that most of the questions that would be asked at this news conference with Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, and keep in mind, it's only what we call a two plus two, two questions for the American press, two questions for the Japanese press, for that to be mainly focused on North Korea, perhaps questions about the Russia investigation.
But undoubtedly, Ana, if the president is not asked about this, my guess is that he'll make a statement about it at the very top of those remarks -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right. Jim Acosta in Tokyo where the president is waking up today getting ready to address the nation and address the press that's there in his Asia trip overseas traveling with the president.
As soon as he steps to bring those remarks to us, we'll of course take you there. That's expected to happen sometime in the next hour.
Meantime, we are monitoring the live picture there on the bottom right of your screen where Texas investigators and officials are expected to brief the press on their investigative information that they're able to share regarding the shooting that happened inside this small Texas church today.
Meantime, lawmakers from Texas are responding to the church shootings. Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued this statement.
"While the details of this horrific act are still under investigation, Celia, and I want to send our sincere rest thoughts and prayers to all those who have been affected by this evil act. I want to thank law enforcement for their response and ask that all Texans pray for the Sutherland Springs community during this time of mourning and loss."
Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeted, "Keeping all harmed in Sutherland Springs in our prayers and grateful for our brave first responders on the scene." Senator John Cornyn of Texas also tweeting, "Truly heartbreaking news in Sutherland Springs. Please pray -- say a prayer for First Baptist congregation, first responders and the community there."
House Speaker Paul Ryan also sending his best tweeting, "Reports out of Texas are devastating. The people of Sutherland Springs need our prayers right now."
We are continuing to follow developments from Sutherland Springs, Texas, southeast of San Antonio. We are watching live pictures from the scene. The FBI and ATF are there. You can see a huge law enforcement presence right now.
Meantime we are waiting that press conference where Texas Governor Greg Abbott is also expected to speak about the tragedy. We will bring that all to you live when it happens.
You are inside the CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us. We're back in a moment.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:27:47] CABRERA: We are following breaking news out of Texas. If you're just joining us, a mass shooting happened inside a church this morning during Sunday worship. And here is what we know right now. The sheriff says more than 20 people have died at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, small town east of San Antonio where we are told dozens more may be injured.
The gunman died after a brief chase. Officials aren't saying right now the shooter's name. We don't know if he was killed by police or if he took his own life. The FBI is also on scene trying to determine the reason for this attack.
The pastor's 14-year-old daughter is among those killed. Neither the pastor nor his wife were at the church during the shootings.
I want to bring in someone who's been part of these investigations and knows how they work. Cheryl Dorsey is a retired LAPD police sergeant and is joining us now.
Cheryl, what would be the top priority for investigators right now?
CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD POLICE SERGEANT: Well, you know, once they've identified the victims and got them off to safety to the hospital, those that were able to be transported, they're going to start working backwards from the scene to get as much information as they can about this suspect. And obviously they know way more than what they're sharing with us right now for obvious reasons.
CABRERA: Cheryl, I just want to warn you and our viewers, we may have to cut this conversation short to go to the news conference. We have just been given a warning should be starting within the next minute or so. But right now our understanding is there is just one gunman. He is dead. At least 20 others are dead. Multiple others injured. To have so many victims, what does that tell you?
DORSEY: Well, you know, I'm hearing that this is a very small, rural community, and so my gut tells me right away that this may be very personal to this shooter. You know, you don't come into a small area with very few ways to leave unless you're familiar with it. So did he have an axe to grind with someone there in the community? And most specifically, someone there that was connected with that church.
CABRERA: We only know it was a shooting. We don't know what type of gun, but a witness heard as many as 20 shots fired in a very short period of time. Another witness described ricocheting hearing gunshots. So what does that suggest?
DORSEY: Well, it sounds like the shooter had a position of advantage clearly and that he was able to get off so many rounds before anyone was able to neutralize him. And then to escape in a vehicle and get away there has to be some familiarity with this location, with this venue, and with the geography that leads in and out, the ingress/egress for this church.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Witnesses say there are young families who would have been at this church service, including children who may be among the dead. In fact, we know at least one child was killed, a 14- year-old, the pastor's daughter.
Does that tell you anything about the psyche of this killer, to be able to open fire on children?
DORSEY: Well, you know, isn't that what people do when they want to get attention, they try to go for the most shock value? And what's more shocking than catching someone off guard, catching someone who's in a vulnerable position, and then to --innocent -- to slaughter innocent children and people who are most vulnerable. This is the kind of target that they go after to get the most maximum effect, right?
CABRERA: Sergeant Dorsey, this church, we know, recorded its sermons. We actually were able to show our viewers a previous sermon recording from the church service that happened last weekend. We know they put some of these videos online.
While it's pretty awful to think that this murder could have been videotaped, how crucial is this evidence?
DORSEY: Well, it's going to be very helpful when the officers that are involved in this investigation try to unravel and backtrack. Maybe, seeing the suspect come into the venue, seeing where he may have secreted himself while worshippers were doing what they do. All of this is going to be very helpful.
Now, I understand that he is dead, but this will give some insight into what his mindset was and why this church, on this day, at this time.
CABRERA: What are the key questions you want answered that we may get at this press conference?
DORSEY: Well, it's too early, you know, to expect much to come out of it. And so the kinds of things that need to be asked and answered will probably come much later once we find out the identify -- identity of the suspect and his connection to that church and to those parishioners.
CABRERA: What would you -- I guess, when you're in an investigative position, when you are responding to a scene like this, we know that the immediate reaction is to make sure people are safe.
But now, we're about six hours into the investigation almost because this happened about 11:30 local time. It's about 5:30 now local time there in Texas.
What do you suppose investigators are doing at this point? Are they interviewing witnesses still? Would they be collecting gun shell casings? Help me understand that.
DORSEY: They're going to be doing all of that for quite some time because they're going to have to secure -- well, I'm sure that the church is already secured, and so they're going to take their time. It's going to be very labor intensive in terms of the on-scene investigation. And then not knowing how many people were in the church at the time of
the shooting, they're going to have to question and interview each of those witnesses. And they're going to have to deal with some particular sensitivity, if you will, because some of these witnesses may very well be family members of the victims that lost their life.
And so this is not anything that you want to rush through. And really, at this point, there is no urgency about getting this investigation completed. You want to take your time, be thorough, and answer all of the questions that need to be answered.
CABRERA: Again, we are watching this image, the podium, where we are expecting an update from investigators here very shortly, including the Governor, who is expected to join us to brief the media and the country on the tragedy that happened in Texas today.
We're also showing you images there of some of the scene from earlier. We know there were multiple life flights that responded to the scene to help evacuate some of those who were injured.
We do know at least eight patients are being treated at one of the hospitals, University Hospital in San Antonio. Again, at least 20 people who are confirmed dead.
Here's what we know as far as just the steps that happened here in Sutherland Springs this morning. It was around 11:30, in the middle of the 11:00 church service, when witnesses say a gunman entered the church and opened fire.
We know the gunman then left the church at some point and was involved in a chase with law enforcement. That gunman is dead right now. We don't know if he took his own life or if he was killed by police.
There is a heavy law enforcement presence on scene right now. This is a rural community about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio. And so ATF, FBI, they are helping local officials conduct this investigation.
We're continuing to stay on top of it for you. Stay with us. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[18:34:57] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: Texas officials are now holding a press conference on a shooting that happened today in Sutherland Springs, Texas. We see Governor Greg Abbott about to address the media. Let's listen.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: -- the great citizens of Stockdale for opening up this community center, for pitching in and helping out, and continuing to demonstrate to the entire world the way that Texans come together to help their fellow Texans.
As a state, we are dealing with the largest mass shooting in our state's history. There's so many families who have lost family members. Fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters. The tragedy, of course, is worsened by the fact that it occurred in a
church, a place of worship, where these people were innocently gunned down.
We mourn their loss, but we support their family members.
We appreciate the first responders and what they've done to help respond to this challenge. They are continuing in their efforts as they put all the pieces of a very complex puzzle together to try to provide their community all the answers they need and deserve.
Unfortunately, I'm sad to tell you, to confirm, at least at this moment in time, there are 26 lives that have been lost. We don't know if that number will rise or not. All we know is that's too many, and this will be a long, suffering mourning for those in pain.
We ask for God's comfort, for God's guidance, and for God's healing for all those who are suffering.
[18:39:54] As governor, I ask for every mom and dad at home tonight, that you put your arm around your kid and give your kid a big hug. And let them know how much you love them.
Knowing that we support each other, tell your friend and your neighbor that you support them and that you will work with them.
I'm very proud of the way that we have so many people working together to respond to this.
Already, in talking to the emergency team in Texas, you know, it's reported that the emergency medical task force from San Antonio was deployed to help respond to the magnitude of this tragedy.
San Antonio area hospitals and trauma centers have coordinated with regard to patient movement and patient care.
The Red Cross has set up family assistance center to help all families affected by this. One thing that is very important for everybody affected by this, whether you're a family member or a non-family member, is that you avail yourself of counseling resources that will be made readily available in abundance.
Now, we have so many people who have helped respond and coordinate in fashion already.
I want to express my gratitude to the President who called from overseas. My gratitude to Senators Cornyn and Cruz, with whom I've already spoken, as well as members of the Texas legislature.
But when you look at the robust response from just the immediate area, I want to express my gratitude to the Sheriff of Wilson County, to the District Attorney from this area, Audrey Louis -- the reason I say this area is because her territory is larger than just Wilson County -- and to DPS Regional Director Freeman Martin.
Each of those three will be speaking shortly. But also to the mayor of the area where we are located right now, the
mayor of Stockdale; to the Department of Homeland Security, to the ATF, the FBI, the Barry County Sheriff's Office, the Guadalupe County Sheriff's Office, the Wilson County Sheriff's Office, the La Vernia Police Department, the Stockdale City Marshall's Office, and the Seguin Police Department.
And I have no doubt that there are other law enforcement as well as emergency agencies that have responded to this, and I regret if I did not mention you. Just know that we appreciate the profound way that everybody's come together.
I would like to now turn things over to Sheriff Joe Tackitt from Wilson County, in whose jurisdiction the crime occurred and whose jurisdiction we are in right now.
SHERIFF JOE TACKITT, JR., WILSON COUNTY, TEXAS: Thank you, Governor. Thank you for your kind words. We all, in here, know what happened today. And it's something we all say does not happen in small communities, although we found out today it does.
We need your support. You know, as media, don't blow it out there that, you know, it should have never happened because it does happen. And we sincerely feel sorry for all of the people that are involved.
We don't know names of any of the victims at this time because we're still trying to work the crime scene. As we get the names, we're going to be contacting family members and letting them know what we have. But at this time, we don't have any names of any of the victims. Thank you.
BOBBY: Thank you. Next is the District Attorney, Audrey Louis.
HON. AUDREY LOUIS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, WILSON COUNTY, TEXAS: Thank you all. We know that you want -- you have lots of questions that you want answers to, but understand this. Our number one priority and goal is to the victims and their families at this point, and we ask that you respect that as well.
We want to make sure to notify victims' families before media gets ahold of that information. It is critical to those families that if they -- if we have bad news to bear, it needs -- they need to hear it before it's announced on the media. And we're going to try to work to ensure that that occurs.
We have lots of law enforcement who are all working very well together with federal and local and state agencies. And we highly commend the professionalism that's occurring.
But because we have to make sure that that crime scene is handled appropriately, it takes time. And unfortunately, that leaves a lot of victims' families wanting answers that we don't really have for them at this very moment. [18:44:59] We will be updating them as soon as we have information and
providing that information so that they have the answers that they need to deal with either the loss or go to their loved ones who may be in the hospital.
We appreciate the work of all law enforcement, and we appreciate you guys. We know that you're trying to get out information.
We don't feel there is a threat that's continuing. And I think that the media has done a pretty good job of making sure that that's been pronounced to the public, but we are working very diligently both to inform the families and to preserve that crime scene and make sure that it's handled appropriately.
So thank you all for your time.
BOBBY: Thank you. And next is DPS Regional Director Freeman Martin.
FREEMAN MARTIN, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Everybody here wants facts and wants information about what's going on, and we'd love to provide you more. But if you came here wanting to know the motive behind this shooting, you're going to leave here disappointed.
We have certain facts that we can release to protect the integrity of the investigation. We will have to release it in a timely fashion and collect the facts and make sure our information is correct before we release it.
We're here assisting the Sheriff, Joe Tackitt. There's multiple agencies involved, the DPS, the Texas Rangers, the FBI, the HSI, ATF, Bexar County S.O., and many, many others. We are all working together to support the Sheriff in this investigation.
At approximately 11:20 this morning, a suspect was seen at a Valero gas station in Sutherland Springs, Texas. He was dressed in all black.
That suspect crossed the street to the church, exited his vehicle, and began firing at the church. That suspect then moved to the right side of the church and continued to fire. That suspect entered the church and continued to fire.
As he exited the church, a local resident grabbed his rifle and engaged that suspect. The suspect dropped his rifle, which was a Ruger A.R. assault-type rifle and fled from the church.
Our local citizen pursued the suspect at that time. A short time later, as law enforcement responded, that suspect, right at the Wilson/Guadalupe county line, he ran off the roadway and crashed out and was found deceased in his vehicle.
At that time, we -- at this time, we don't know if it was a self- inflicted gunshot wound or if he was shot by our local resident who engaged him in gunfire. We know he's deceased in the vehicle. The suspect has not been completely identified. He -- we believe he's
a young White male, maybe in his early 20s. He was dressed in all black tactical type gear and was wearing a ballistic vest.
The delay in getting him identified is there were multiple weapons in the vehicle, and the vehicle has been processed by our Texas Ranger special operations group bomb techs. There's a lot of work to be done in this investigation.
We know that (INAUDIBLE) 23 found deceased inside the church, two deceased outside the church. And now, one of them that was transported that was injured has deceased, bringing the total to 26.
We have approximately 20 that are -- that are transported to local in -- in hospitals in San Antonio with injuries that vary from minor to very severe. We know the ages range from 5 years old to 72 years of age.
There's a lot of work to be done. We are only hours into this investigation, which is going to take a significant length of time. We will continue to provide information as it becomes available.
We know you're going to have a lot of questions. There are many, many that we cannot answer. We continue to process crime scenes. We have multiple, multiple crime scenes.
We have the church. We have outside the church. We have where the suspect's vehicle was located. We have following up on the suspect and where he's from, his residence.
We have many, many people to interview. We have Texas Rangers at all the hospitals, locating those and interviewing those who were injured.
So not a lot of information to give at this time, but the state of Texas, we have every resource that we have available. Texas Rangers, Special Operations, Texas Highway Patrol, crime scene labs, our victim services, the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
Every resource we have available is working. And at the end of this investigation, we'll be able to answer any reasonable question as to what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was the neighbor injured, the one that engaged the gun fighter?
MARTIN: No, he was not.
Would that --
ABBOTT: Great. Well, thank you all. And thanks once again to law enforcement at all levels, from the local level to the state level to the federal level.
Their collaborative working relationship is one that will ensure a swift and certain evaluation of exactly what happened, and we will provide that explanation as quickly as possible.
We will be leaving here and going to meet with some of the family members of those affected as soon as we finish up, but we'll take a few questions.
[18:50:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many were in the church, and how many escaped death or the room (ph)?
ABBOTT: Anybody knows that? Phil?
MARTIN: We don't have those numbers. There were people in the church that escaped that were not injured, but we don't have the -- we don't have all the information. There's
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was mass --
MARTIN: I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was mass being held at the time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the suspected shooter part of any sort of known militia group? Is that being investigated?
MARTIN: That --
ABBOTT: Not at this time.
MARTIN: That is being investigated but we haven't -- we can't say one way or the other.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about him was suspicious to begin with, or what initiated the original call?
ABBOTT: Those are the types of things that are under intense investigation right now. And hopefully, we will learn about them in the next 24 hours.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know if --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The revised total of victims, that does not include the shooter, correct?
MARTIN: That's correct.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us anything about a possible raid on the suspect's home?
ABBOTT: All those types of things will be pieces of information that will be coming out shortly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there anything from (INAUDIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you know anything about any social media postings that he might've hinted that he was going to doing this?
ABBOTT: All of those types of things are being looked into this as we speak.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the former question?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When are you going to process --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the shooter's family was?
ABBOTT: Say again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the shooter's family (INAUDIBLE) of the truth? How long before they kind of knew what happened (ph)?
ABBOTT: Unaware of that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What raised --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When will you release his name?
ABBOTT: As soon as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he known to the community? Was he an outsider?
ABBOTT: We will confirm that when we learn it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do people know --
ABBOTT: Because as --
ABBOTT: Yes. As I think you're realizing, there's a lot of information. We want to piece the puzzle together before we provide you any misinformation. And we want to make sure that we meet with the family members who are affected by this before we release information publicly. We hope to get this information to you as soon as possible.
Thank you all very much.
TACKITT: Now, the call that came in was an active shooter. There was no calls that came in of a suspicious person or anything before.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So how did you all know he was at the Valero? TACKITT: After the fact, we started investigating and found out that
he was there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you (INAUDIBLE) for this purpose?
TACKITT: No, we haven't got it yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
CABRERA: OK. We were listening in there to a news conference with the Governor and several law enforcement officials from Texas as they just briefed the nation on what the Governor called the largest mass killing, mass shooting, in Texas history.
He confirmed at least 26 people lost their lives as the gunman opened fire inside a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas this morning, around 11:30 this morning, during the church service.
We did get additional information about exactly what unfolded. Let me walk you through that in case you missed it.
They have since learned as they pieced this together that there was a sighting of the gunman around 11:20 this morning at a nearby gas station, a Valero gas station. The suspect was seen dressed in all black.
We learned he fired from outside the church first and continued firing as he entered the church. We know the victims range in age from five to 72 years old. Again, at least 26 people are dead. Many others have been taken to the hospital.
That suspect continued firing in the church, and then eventually left. We understand a citizen grabbed his or her gun and returned fire and, in fact, pursued the suspect after the suspect left the church.
The suspect was eventually found away from the scene and was dead. Police don't know right now if he died from his own self-inflicted gunshot wound or from a wound sustained by the return fire from that citizen who bravely followed that suspect and tried to save many other lives.
We don't have a name yet. Officials would not give an identity of the name. They say that they believe he is a young White male. Perhaps in his early 20s is the age range they said. Dressed in all black tactical gear and a ballistics vest.
I want to bring in our law enforcement experts, including analyst James Gagliano. He is a retired FBI supervisory agent for the FBI. And Cheryl Dorsey who is a retired LAPD police sergeant.
James, another thing we learned was that he used an A.R. assault rifle according to the DPS Regional Director there. What does that tell you?
JAMES GAGLIANO, FORMER SPECIAL AGENT, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: Sure. They said that it was a Ruger, and we've heart that it's a 223 round, which is the 5.56 NATO standard round. These are very popular weapons.
My guess -- I was an FBI farms instructor. I did see a lot of these before. They're called the Bushmaster. It's a Ruger Mini-14. That's my guess. Very popular out west.
Again, let's be careful. If this weapon had not been modified, if it was not modified, it's a semi-automatic weapon.
[18:55:00] Now, you can put 20-round magazines into a semi-automatic weapon or a 30-round magazine into a semi-automatic weapon. In those types of weapons, if you squeeze the trigger a number of different times, you can put down range a lot of fire. But not to confuse an automatic weapon with what this appears to be, which was a semi- automatic weapon.
I can't say enough about the bravery and the heroism of the next-door neighbor to the church who came out with his own rifle from the house and probably ended up interdicting the shooter enough so -- or getting him distracted enough where he was, you know, forced to run off, jump into his vehicle, and apparently left his weapon behind. Very, very heroic act there.
CABRERA: Sergeant Dorsey, what stood out to you from that press conference?
DORSEY: Well, there's so much that we haven't heard, and I'm curious to know if there were more magazines for this weapon, if this individual -- and we'll find this out later, if he was able to purchase it legitimately.
And also, I'm curious to know when they find out about any associates. I mean, was this just a one-time thing, or was -- were there other targets planned? Were there other events? Did he communicate this with anyone?
And, you know, now we just have to really be mindful about how we comport ourselves no matter where we are because we're not safe at church. We're not safe at school. We're not safe in a theater. And we need to be mindful of that and really give particular attention to how we comport ourselves in these places that used to be safe zones.
CABRERA: Why do you think they are not releasing the suspect's identity at this point, James?
GAGLIANO: It's hard to tell. There could be a number of different reasons. One is they could be wanting to determine for certain that there are no co-conspirators. They don't want to spook somebody that might've had some type of connection to this, or provided some type of material support.
CABRERA: Which on that, they did say -- the District Attorney said they do not believe there's additional threat.
GAGLIANO: Right, absolutely. But they -- just because there's not an additional threat doesn't mean that somebody might not have possibly provided material support. And sometimes that material support could be unwitting. Somebody that might have provided him with extra weapons or extra ammunitions or pointed out where the church was.
You want to find all those people, and you want to make sure you get in contact with them. So they're being very, very cautious.
I think it's also important to point out, to my colleague's earlier point, that as this paradigm, this active shooter thing, becomes, unfortunately, more and more prevalent in our minds, it's very important to put out -- the FBI has been teaching this now for some time -- which is, what do people do when something like this happens, and the "run, hide, fight, tell," in that order.
And a number of times where I've talked to people off set about, what should you do in a situation like that, it's just that situational awareness. Unfortunately, again, going into a church, you don't expect that you need to have situational awareness, but it could be as something as simple and as effective and important as just knowing where the exits are.
Because I'm sure, once the gunman came in -- he apparently came in through the front doors -- and started shooting away, people were probably confused as to where to run to. And knowing where exits are is very, very important.
CABRERA: Was it important to note, Cheryl, that this shooter apparently started firing even before entering the church. Like, he was firing outside the church at the doors and then continued to fire. Does that provide any additional clue in your mind?
DORSEY: I mean, we can speculate. There's no way to know. It's quite possible that there was someone outside that he engaged, and he wanted to deal with that person, if you will, to kind of put them at a disadvantage or to prevent them from engaging him, right?
And so if there was someone that he encountered outside, he dealt with them, and then he continued on. And so, thankfully, this next-door neighbor was able to come out.
Because it's not clear to me from the press conference whether it's this person's interaction that caused him to flee or if it was because, as he was fleeing, that this person took action. Had that person not involved himself in this situation, it could have been so much worse in terms of casualties and people injured.
CABRERA: Oh, my, to even think about that. Tough to go there.
We know that he was wearing tactical gear, according to the law enforcement official, Regional Director Freeman Martin, and he had a ballistics vest on. He was dressed in all black.
We are also learning from our sources -- according to our CNN Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez, who has been talking with his law enforcement official sources, James, that the shooter also had other firearms in his vehicle. That's what law enforcement found when they encountered him. Does that suggest he was planning, what?
GAGLIANO: Certainly. And again, it's supposition at this early juncture. But, I mean, was this something where the shooter was a gun enthusiast? Was this shooter somebody who was a hunter, or could this shooter possibly have been somebody with a military background?
[18:59:56] These are all things that the investigators are now going through because it's very easy if they have a name now.
They go and they look up and see if there's a D.D. 214, which is the government document that shows military service, and go back and find out whether or not the fact that he was dressed in all black, the fact that he acted tactically was something that he might have done because he had --