Return to Transcripts main page
26 Killed in Texas Church by Shooter. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired November 5, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. You are watching CNN's special live coverage of the tragedy that has shaken a small Texas community. 26 people are dead; at least 20 others are injured after a gunman went on a rampage during a Sunday church service.
A short time ago crowds gathered near the First Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas to honor the victims of the worst mass shooting in Texas state history according to the governor. Among the dead, the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor.
Two law enforcement sources now tell CNN the gunman has been identified as 26 year old Devin Patrick Kelley, a former member of the U.S. Air force who we now know was court marshaled in 2012 for assaulting his wife and child.
Officials saw during today's attack, he was dressed in all black, was wearing a ballistic vest when he entered the church and open fire with an assault type rifle. A who lived nearby apparently hear the gun fire and confronted the shooter possibly saving many lives.
The suspect was later found dead in his car. At this point, there is no word on a motive but when I spoke with the local sheriff there easier, he noted that the gunman was not a local resident. I want to begin with CNN Pentagon reporter, Ryan Browne, who's joining us on the phone. And Ryan, you're getting new information on the suspect's military background, what can you tell us?
RYAN BROWNE, CNN REPORTER: Well that's right, Ana, we're learning new information from the air force about Kelley's military service record and we learned that he joined the air force in 2010 and served as a logistics and readiness air force service member at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
But as your mentioned, he was court marshaled in 2012 for violating the uniform code of military justice and that was for assaulting his spouse and their child. Now the subject of that court marshal was he was confined to prison for 12 months and was then reduced into the lowest rank possible.
And was received what's called a bad conduct discharge which separated him from the Air Force and kind of put on his permanent service record. So that - we're learning that he was indeed court marshaled shortly after actually joining the Air Force in 2012.
CABRERA: All right, Ryan Browne, thank you for that reporting. We've learned much more about the gunman who slaughtered 26 innocent people during this church service in this small rural community in Texas. And joining us now to discuss CNN Law Enforcement Analyst, Jonathan Wackrow, Art Roderick, and Charles Ramsey.
So, Art Roderick, you served as a military policeman in the army. Tonight, we're learning Kelley was court marshaled while in the Air Force for assaulting his wife and his child. He was apparently given confinement for 12 months, was discharged for bad conduct. How can someone who served a year for domestic violence pass a background check for a gun?
ART RODERICK, FORMER U.S. MARSHAL: Well, unfortunately a lot of times those records are not shared between the criminal justice process and what's called the uniform code of military justice, the UCMJ.
Now he was charged under the UCMJ, received a bad conduct discharge as you guys have reported and unfortunately a lot of times when ATF, who does the background checks with purchasing the firearms. That record will not show up under a regular NCIC, which is National Crime Information Center is kept.
A lot of times those records aren't shared and it's also very difficult in a lot of cases to get records from the military.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: We are looking at live pictures there on the right from the scene as investigators continue with their investigation into the evening hours here. We can also tell you that we've learned that of the 26 victims, they ranging in age from just 5 years old to 72 and Jonathan, as Art points out, it sounds like there could have been a gap in terms of a background check if he went and purchased this gun.
We've learned he purchased the gun in 2016 in Texas. It was a 200 - or .223 Caliber rifle that was used I this shooting. We also are told it's a Ruger AR-556 rifle more specifically purchased in April, 2016.
JONATHAN WACKROW, LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well listen, this is a challenge for law enforcement, you know. Of the 50 states, there are many different gun laws that are in place, some states it's easier to obtain hand guns and rifles, some states it's very difficult.
So there's no standard lightness test for possessing a gun. So our point earlier, when you start conducting background investigations on anybody, if you have to go back to the military to understand criminal records in a military court, the sharing of information sometimes can be difficult.
But this goes to who the individual was, not necessarily that he had the weapon. It's his motivation which is the scarier part to me; it sort of transcends the weapon itself. Look at the individual, he showed up, he was dressed in black gear, he had a ballistic vest on. 052305
He was there for some sort of fight, regardless whether it was a gun fight or a knife fight. He was there, there's a motive for him to be there to make this attack. I want to know why, I want to know why he did this, what was - what was the time period that preceded this? Who was he talking to? What was he writing online - social media? What were these - there was an early warning sign out there that somebody missed.
These events don't happen in a vacuum. And what happens it that there are signs that people pick up on that they just don't talk about. We need to as a society start talking more about those early warning indicators to prevent these types of attacks from happening in the future.
CABRERA: Charles Ramsey, we know that one of the victims was a 14 year old girl. We're just learning another victim was a woman who was pregnant. What does that tell you about the mindset of this killer?
CHARLES RAMSEY, LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well I mean, obviously he's deranged, but until we know the motive it's going to be difficult to really tell exactly what was on his mind. But clearly he's just deranged, I don't think he cared. I mean, you've got victims that range in age from children all the way up to 72 years old, a pregnant woman.
This guy's just a cold blooded killer, period. So until we know the motive and whether of not there were any warning signs that someone maybe could have picked up on, all these are going to be unanswered questions.
CABRERA: We also know two of the five worse mass shootings in modern U.S. history have now happened in the last 35 days. 18 of the 30 deadliest shootings has occurred in the last 10 years. How important it is to figure out why this attacker did this?
RAMSEY: It is important. Motive is the key in all these shootings so that we can better understand how to prevent them. Could we have prevented this? We won't know until what his motive is but these are very difficult types of incidences to stop. Number 1, because this individual more than likely was willing to die, did he have an escape planned?
But if he's willing to come into a situation like this firing at what he believes is a soft target, thank goodness the neighbor next door was able to arm himself very quickly and chase the individual away. But these are very tough incidences to stop unless somebody does see some warning signs and makes a phone call to law enforcement and say hey, something's not right here.
CABRERA: So now, there are local, state, FBI, ATF investigators all on scene of this tragic ass shooting. Art, since you have served in that federal law enforcement capacity. What do those federal agents specifically bring to an investigation like this? RODERICK: Well they bring - they bring the backbone, the recourses for conducting these types of mass casualty incident investigations and you've got the FBI coming in. We are talking about church, so this possibly some hate crime issues going on here.
Also we're looking for other possible coconspirators out here, individuals that knew what was going on. When you conduct investigations like this, they're very resource driven so you need a lot of investigators out there.
You need ATF checking the weapons to track all the different kinds of hand guns, not just the rifle. But he had other weapons inside that vehicle when he was found dead. So, there's a lot of information to get through. You have a massive crimes scene here with a lot of bodies so that's resource driven.
When you look at incidences like this, state, local and federal agencies work together and unfortunately they've got great experience at handing these types of mass casualty incidents.
CABERA: Charles, 26 innocent souls were killed, the gunman himself if dead but we don't know yet how he died exactly so one of the many questions tonight, what types of questions would you expect to get answered in the first 24 hours after an event like this.
RAMSEY: Well we're going to find out more about him because I'm sure the investigators right now are going through whatever they have available. They've been able to execute some search warrants. Maybe they've got a computer, may they've got a diary, maybe he left a note of some kind in that vehicle.
I mean, who know, he obviously expected to leave there alive so he maybe not have had a note or anything like that in the car. But we'll find out more over night, but you know the real tragedy here, we're going to be going through this over and over again. This country's a wash in firearms; it's very easy for those guns to fall into the hands of people that are deranged or terrorists.
The hand writing's on the wall. I mean how many times do we have to go through this, and when something's being labeled the worst ever. Las Vegas was just a month ago, and it's just on, and on, and on. And we need some serious dialogue and figure out how to stop this.
CABRERA: It's also the eighth anniversary of the Fort Hood shooting which also happened in Texas, of course. Jonathan, what do you think is the key to finding a motive? Again, the gunman's dead, so he's not going to be able to say why he did this.
WACKROW: No, but there's a lot of clues out there that we'll start taking a look at. Social media these days has become a great resource to look at motive, his social circles. I want to know what was his mindset just prior to launching this attack. I want to know why he chose this house of worship. What was the reason for this targeting? What was the reason for coming from a far?
CABRERA: Right. WACKROW: He wasn't a part of that community as it was reported. So what was he targeting specifically? What type of message was he trying to get? I want to know that. I've got to learn that (ph) from the coworkers. I'm going to learn that from friends, social circles. I want to know if he started to become a lot more destabilized over the last few months. Was there anything - there's an outlier that's out there that people would pick up on, and I want to know that right away.
CABRARA: And when we talk about prevention and know we (ph) can predict something like this. But Art, do you think this tragic mass shooting at a church could prompt other congregations now be rethinking their own security measures going forward?
RODERICK: Absolutely. I mean we've had other shootings at other churches, and a lot of do now since a lot of these shootings have occurred at churches and religious places of worship that a lot of these locations are now providing armed security. I think also the other we have to look at here - is there any possible connection between what happened to his wife and child when he was convicted of this crime in the military court, and is there any connection going on here? So I'm sure they're looking at that also considering this conviction is what caused him to have his bad conduct discharge.
CABRERA: All right, gentleman. Thank you. Stand by. We will continue to our conversation into the investigation. Up next, new reaction from Texas. Congressman Joaquin Castro is going to respond to this tragedy in his home state. He'll join us live as we continue our special CNN Breaking News coverage. Stay with us.
GREG ABBOTT; GOVENOR OF TEXAS: As a state we are dealing with the largest mass shooting in our states history. There are so many families who've lost family members, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. The tragedy, of course, is worsened by the fact that occurred in a church, a place of worship, where these people were innocently gunned down.
ANA CABRERA; CNN HOST: That was Texas governor Greg Abbott expressing his grief after 26 people were killed, 20 others injured in a church shooting in Texas today. Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas is joining us by phone now from San Antonio.
Congressman, our condolences, to all of the people of Texas tonight. Have you been able to speak to any of those who are injured or family members of the victims?
JOAQUIN CASTRO; TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: No, not the injured. I did talk to the local officials and my office reached out to the FBI to get an update on exactly what happened. But it's just an incredible tragedy, again in Texas.
Texas is really haunted three generations with mass shootings. The 1966 U.T. Tower massacre, when I was a senior in high school in 1991, a man walked into a Luby's restaurant in Killeen, Texas and killed 16 people, which at the time was the largest mass murder in U.S. history and now this generation unfortunately had 2017 and Sutherland Springs.
CABRERA: How do you wrap your mind around it?
CASTRO: It really is hard to imagine. This guy walking into a small town church in the middle of service and opening fire on people. We don't have a reason as to why yet. We may never know exactly why he did it, but this is a very small rural, conservative Texas town where people -- the thing they're worried most about protecting is their good reputation. So, it's just hard to fathom that this would happen really anywhere in the United States, but particularly in this small town.
CABRERA: You say you've been able to talk with some law enforcement as they conduct this investigation. What can you share with us?
CASTRO: Well, it's an ongoing investigation. They laid out pretty much what they know so far. I mean the ultimate search is, number one to figure out why it happened and if anything fell through the cracks, if this guy obtained a gun illegally, for example.
There's a question about how exactly he was discharged from the military. So, the federal government, state government and the local government are all making an effort to get to the bottom of some of these unanswered questions.
CABRERA: We've heard from so many people; witnesses, community members what a tight knit community this is. You talked a little bit about Sutherland Springs just a few minutes ago. What more do you want people to know about this part of Texas?
CASTRO: I mean, it's a lot of humble very hard working people. Some of them, I'm sure, are natives of Wilson County. Wilson County is just Southeast of Barrett County, my hometown in San Antonio.
I'm sure you have a lot of natives there, but also a lot of people who have retired there or moved there to escape the big cities of San Antonio and Austin. And so, I'm sure it's a community that feels very safe in their way of life and for something like this to intrude on that is just a tragic and incredible.
CABRERA: The President, as you know, is overseas in Japan. He offered his thoughts and prayers to the victims as well as his support to the people of Texas. He will now, however, be shortening his trip to Asia, we've learned. Are you comfortable with that decision, or do the people of Texas need to see the President right now?
CASTRO: Well I think the President should come back to the United States and should come to Texas. I know that the Asia trip is important, but he's made his motto "America First," and this is the time where America could use its president here on the Homeland. And so I hope the president will come back.
CABRERA: Are you surprised to learn that the gunman had served in the Air Force?
CASTRO: It wasn't too big of a surprise. I mean we've seen others with a military background who've also committed heinous crimes. I was surprised to learn that he had some it looks like domestic violence and mental health issues which apparently went unresolved, and that's why there's an open question about whether he should have even been possessing a firearm.
But all of this kind of speak at a larger challenge of making sure that guns stay out of the hands of the wrong folks. I really think that there are two parts to this issues. First is the prevention part and that's when we get into issues of background checks which Americans support 80 or 90 percent. But also some of the things that republicans have spoken about like increasing funding for mental health. Unfortunately, the rhetoric has not matched reality.
When you look at the proposed budget this year, for example, it would cut mental health funding. Doing away with the Affordable Care Act would also hurt mental health funding. The second part of this is really limiting the damage that somebody could do with that kind of firearm. So if you look at our history, there had been folks you have gotten guns legally - who have legally purchased guns and then still gone on and used them in a deadly way to kill many people.
So there are going to be people who either legally obtain an gun and then use it in this way, or folks who illegally obtain guns and use it in this way. That's why the second part of this strategy has to be to limit the damage that somebody could with a firearm while still respecting that fact that we have the Second Amendment, and people have the right to carry arms.
So when we talk about banning assault rifles or limiting the number of bullets in a cartridge, that's a strategy to limit the damage that somebody can do especially in a situation like this where somebody rushes into a building and they basically surprise everybody in there, and within a matter of seconds or minutes 26 people are dead. And I know there was - at least right now, law enforcement has said they believe that somebody else - a citizen - shot at this person and either wounded him or scared him off, and he left which obviously is a good thing, but he still killed 26 people before somebody got a shot off on him.
So we can't underestimate the power of surprise in these circumstances. That's why you have to limit what that firearm can do.
CABRERA: Do you worry about being criticized for politicizing this tragedy?
CASTRO: No, I don't think that - I don't think that it's politicizing it. I think that it's talking about a legitimate issue of policy. Not of politics, but of policy. How do we make sure that we basically cut down on the number of these instances that we have? Maybe you're never going to reduce it to zero, but you've got to do everything possible while respecting the Constitution to cut the number down.
CABRERA: And last question - does this incident change what happens tomorrow when Congress members return to Capitol Hill?
CASTRO: I hope so. I'm somebody that supported legislation as I describe, but to be honest we've seen Congress sit down and do nothing when other tragedies in Orlando and California, Las Vegas, in Texas at Fort Hood that happened in recent years. And so it's hard to say which event is going to be the catalyst for Congress to finally do something and listen to the American people who overwhelmingly support action.
CABRERA: Congressman Joaquin Castro, thank you for your time tonight.
CASTRO: Thank you.
CABRERA: Coming up, we know he was 26 years old, a husband and a father, a veteran. But why Devin Kelly walked into a Texas church and to open fire still unknown. The latest on the gunman, what we have learned on the investigation next. You're live in the CNN Newsroom.
CABRERA: Updating you on our breaking news now 26 people are dead, 20 injured after a gunman went on a shooting spree during a Sunday church service. The victims range in age from just 5 years old to 72. And among the dead is a pregnant woman and a 14-year-old girl. The daughter of the church pastor. We're also learning new details about the suspect.
Two law enforcement sources tell CNN the gunman has been identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley. He's a former member of the U.S. Air force who was court-martialed in 2012 for assaulting his wife and child.
Officials say during today's attack, he was dressed all in black, he was wearing a ballistic vest as he entered the church, he opened fire with an assault-type rifle and the suspect was later found dead in his car after a citizen, a neighbor of the church apparently came to the scene and tried to confront this suspect.
We have learned that when Kelley purchased the gun that's believed to be used in this attack, he filled out background check paperwork and he checked a box indicating he didn't have any disqualifying history. I want to bring in CNN's Ed Lavandera.
And Ed, we know the FBI is now on scene as well as the ATF and many other law enforcement agencies. What's the latest you're learning about the investigation?
LAVENDARA: Well, here at the shooting scene, you can see behind me, authorities have cordoned off several blocks around this church and have brought in lights to continue the search for evidence and working this.
The crime scene there and the church that you see just over my shoulder. So that work is expected to continue through the night as investigators here on the ground ought (ph) to (ph) continue to collect evidence there at what is a very -- a brutal crime scene. And also a crime scene that is also very expansive, in several locations. So investigators having to work all of that here tonight. CABRERA: And Ed, the victims, ages 5 to 72. A number of people we
know are still in the hospital tonight. What can you tell us about the range of injuries?
LAVENDARA: We haven't heard a lot of specifics on just exactly what kind of injuries the people who've taken to the hospitals. One hospital said people were in stable condition. Those victims we're told were transported to about three different area hospitals closer to San Antonio.
So obviously a great deal of attention being paid to those folks who obviously also critical eyewitnesses to what occurred and what unfolded as well. But the number one concern here is treating those injuries. Obviously you'd expect a lot of these folks are dealing with gunshot wounds and that type of thing. So very serious situation for all those victims being treated in hospitals tonight.
CABRERA: All right. Ed Lavandera on scene for us in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Thank you. Now, the church where this shooting happened recorded their services to later post on the internet. You can be sure that police will be looking to see if cameras were rolling during today's attack. The sheriff implied that he believes that they were recording. And we now have an example of the videos the church recorded. I want to stress this is video from last week. It's not from today's service. But take a look.
Joy is mine. (inaudible) I found the secret. It's Jesus in my heart.
CABRERA: Again, this video from previous church service. It gives you a sense of the kind of church this is, the congregation that's there. My panel is joining us again. Art Roderick, Charles Ramsey and Jonathan Wackro. Jonathan who is here with me in New York. I'll ask you first, I mean that video, how crucial is that as far as evidence?
WACKROW: Well it's very critical for law enforcement once they have that, to understand what happened inside. What was he doing? Did he try to confront one individual or was he just -- did he just walk in the door and start firing?
Again, that's going to go to the motive. But looking at the confined space of that video, it's chilling. Knowing that the shooter walked in in such a confined space to cause so much devastation is unbelievable.
I mean, a couple weeks ago we were talking about Las Vegas. Massive outdoor area, wide area. Now, thinking about this shooter walking into this house of worship. These people had nowhere to go. This was -- this is such a tragic event from 5 years old to 72 years old entrapped in that church.
That video presumably looking towards the altar area, not a lot of space to go. And if the shooter's blocking your main entrance and exit, I mean, it just becomes a horrific, horrific, you know, situation for everyone involved.
CABRERA: It really is horrific. And Charles, the sheriff says the shooter didn't even live in Sutherland Springs. He wasn't part of that community. What do you think of that?
RAMSEY: Well that's all part of what they're going to take a look at as they begin to get more and more information about this guy. You know, it something that was preplanned, maybe had he been through there before? Or was he just looking for a soft target?
I can't think of a softer target than a church in a very small community on a Sunday. I mean, you know, that's what you're seeing more and more of. He just wanted to kill a lot of people. But perhaps he knew somebody there or had some kind of issue with somebody in the church and that's why he chose that location.
We just don't know right now. So there's a lot of speculation, but I think within a relatively shortly period of time, more and more information will become available and we'll get a pretty clear picture.
CABRERA: Art, the gunman we learned has a violent history. He was convicted through a court-martial. And because of that you say it's possible it wouldn't be flagged in a background check to buy a gun. Explain that.
RODERICK: Well, I mean, whenever you buy a weapon from a federally licensed dealer, you have to fill out what's called an ATF Form 4473. And on that form, there's a lot of questions about your pedigree information, your date of birth, height, weight, you know, your driver's license, where do you live. And there's two questions on there that fall into this.
One of them is have you ever been connected -- convicted of a felony? And if you check no, ATF basically uses this form, 4473, to do that criminal background check, and a lot of times those records will not match up. In other words, you won't get a military conviction on an NCIC printout, to do the background check that ATF does.
There's also another question on there that goes to mental stability, you know, have you ever been committed to a state facility, and if you answer no to that question there really is, sort of on the honor system, because of HIPAA laws ATF has no way to check the veracity of that question if you answer yes or no.
CABRERA: So how do you prevent people from slipping through the cracks?
RODERICK: That's a good question. Really, the only way, when you purchase a firearm and you use this form 4473, basically all it's doing is checking your criminal history to make sure you're not a convicted felon.
CABRERA: Jonathan, the gun itself we've learned now that Kelly purchased this Ruger AR 556 rifle in April 2016 from an academy sports and outdoor store in San Antonio, Texas as according to a law enforcement official telling our Evan Perez. What do you know about that weapon?
WAKROW: So the 556 NATO round fires at a higher velocity -- slightly higher velocity than the 223. So again, weapons selection in this instance, you know, combined with the body armor, the potential was he planning this attack, did he have pre-attack surveillance.
Starting to frame this all together, the clothing that he was wearing, this was not a crime of opportunity. I don't think this was a spontaneous event. This was pre meditated murder, he was going to that church for some very specific reason, that motivation will have to come up, we'll have to find out why.
But again, the weapon, the body armor, all of this stuff combined is going to paint that picture and tell us, you know, who this individual really was.
Again, we have to look back. Investigators are looking back into his early childhood to see what are those triggers, what brought that individual to this point today. And more importantly, as a community, how do we move forward from this and prevent this type of action from happening.
And again, whether it's a - whether it's a gun, whether it's a knife, whether it's someone using a vehicle to attack, whether it's domestic terrorism or international terrorism, there's common themes that are here that collectively as a society - you know, the American society, we have to start coming together and developing this culture of security awareness.
We're sitting here talking about his online postings. We're sitting here talking about pre attack behavior. These things need to be highlighted, there needs to be a pathway for people to take to alert law enforcement so these type of tragedies don't happen again.
CABRERA: We don't know yet, if this is terrorism. We don't know if this is a hate crime. We don't know if this is just horrible murder, but Charles, we do know this killer was wearing a tactical vest. A ballistic vest and other tactical gear, as they put it.
He opened fire outside the church, then he went inside and opened fire some more. Then he fled the scene. So, Charles, it sounds like he planned to escape?
RAMSEY: Yes, I mean, it's pretty clear to me anyway that he planned to escape, otherwise he would have killed himself right there inside the church, but wearing a heavy gear he obviously thought he'd be able to make good his escape.
Now, where he was going to go after that, who knows. He could have committed a crime prior to actually going to the church, we don't know that yet I don't believe, or maybe he planned to do some more damage afterwards. We just don't know the answers to these questions right now, and that's something that we've got to figure out, and I believe it'll happen in fairly short order. I know that they're going to be very active in terms of the investigation now over the next several hours and days if that's necessary.
CABRERA: Charles Ramsey, Jonathon Wakrow, Art Roderick, thank you for your expertise and insight. Still to come, I can feel the pain, those are the words of a woman attending a vigil in Sutherland Springs tonight. How the tiny Texas town is reacting, next.
CABRERA: The community of Sutherland Springs, Texas in shock after a gunman walked into a church service this morning and opened fire. The tiny Texas town, very tight-knit community, is located in Wilson County, which is about 30 miles east of San Antonio. Less than 1,00 people live in Sutherland Springs.
CNN's Gustavo Valdes is in Sutherland Springs and Gustavo, you attended a vigil that happened there earlier. What are you hearing from people there?
GUSTAVO VALDES, REPORTER, CNN: Very emotional moment. People from all the communities around here came to show solidarity. They authorities are not naming the victims yet, but I talked to a couple who knows one of those victims, the one person who has been identified, a 14 year old girl. And this is what they told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VALDES: Gloria, you -- you live in a neighboring town. You were in church when this happened. What did you hear about it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was at my church in Floresville. (ph) We were born and raised here in Sutherland Springs.
VALDES: Yes, you knew the pastor?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course.
VALDES: What kind of person was he? Or is he -- he still alive?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a loving pastor, man of god. We knew his girls, the one that didn't survive. I've known her since she was about eight years old. And there's no words to describe how wonderful people they are. Christian. It's just a small Christian town. A very small community, everybody's united.
Everybody's so close to everybody. Everybody knows everybody. And my uncle, he's lived here all his life.
VALDES: You said that he has helped you a lot in the past.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
VALDES: How -- how did he help you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, like I say, when I need some help, I ask him for prayers and he pray for me. And he help me all different ways. Lot of ways.
VALDES: This is happening in Manchester, (ph) Las Vegas, shortly after, New York, big cities. Do you ever think that a community like yours would go through something like this?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never in a million years would I ever imagine this happening, ever. Never. I can feel the pain that everybody's going through. So much hurt for a small town, for a small community. So united. Never in a million years would I expect anything like this. I could never imagine anything like this ever happening here.
Maybe San Antonio, somewhere else but never in a small town.
VALDES: How is this changing your mentality about small town USA?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I -- I don't think it'll change. I think our love will just grow stronger. We have to stay stronger, united, love one another. Like I said, everybody knows everybody.
VALDES: This -- this candlelight vigil was very emotional. People -- I heard somebody ask let this not be a moment of hate. Do you agree?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly. We need more love. There needs to be love. We need to have god in our lives. God is the only one that can direct us in the right direction. We need to turn our lives around and ask god for forgiveness. He's the only one that can help us. He's there, all we have to do is ask and he will help us.
VALDES: Do you know if you know anybody of the victims, other than the pastor's daughter?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know the victims that did not make it. But I've heard who they are and I do know them.
VALDES: Because you're so close and even though they're neighboring towns, everybody...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody knows everybody. And this is the only church in the community. And this is where everybody comes to worship. This is -- if you're a Baptist, this is where you come. And surrounding towns, you know, they all come to this church. It's -- like I say, they're so united. There's so much love for one another.
There's no room for hate. There shouldn't be room for hate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VALDES: A vigil that was very emotional but you could feel the pain these people are suffering. And not only here in Texas, but we know all across the country and people all over the world are sending their condolences about this moment. I -- and I want to tell you that I also spoke with a man earlier today
who told me that he usually would have been in church today but he overslept. He told me his cousin was here with his family. His cousin was wounded on the arm, he's at the hospital. He's pregnant wife was killed.
Her parents were killed. And three of their five children were also killed, one of the other, the small daughter is fighting for her life with a bullet in her head, according to this man. We hope she recovers like many other victims that are in the hospitals in the area. Ana.
CABRERA: That is so heavy. Such a powerful interview. Gustavo Valdes, thank you for that report. The shooting happened when President Trump, of course, is overseas. He's on a 13 day trip to Asia and today, he condemned the shooting as an act of evil. He also ordered that all U.S. flags be flown at half staff. Here's the flag over the White House tonight.
Stay with us. Much more straight ahead, live in the CNN Newsroom.
CABRERA: Continuing to cover our breaking news out of South Texas, President Trump says this mass shooting in Texas is quote an act of evil. The President's speaking out publicly for the first time since the gunman dressed in all black opened fire at a small town Baptist church in Texas today.
26 people are dead, the youngest victim just five years old and right now the President is in Tokyo on the first leg of his historic trip to Asia. Here's what he had to say about this tragedy back in the state of Texas.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me begin today by addressing the horrific shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of today's horrible and murderous attack.
This act of evil occurred as the victims and their families were in there place of sacred worship. We cannot put into words the pain and grief we all feel, and we cannot begin to imagine the suffering of those who lost the ones they so dearly loved.
Our hearts are broken, but in dark times - and these are dark times - such as these, Americans do what they do best. We pull together. We join hands, we lock arms, and though the tears and through the sadness, we stand strong, oh so strong.
CABRERA: One of those standing strong tonight is Kathleen Curnow, she lives in Sutherland Springs, she saw some of this shooting unfold. Kathleen, how are you doing tonight?
KATHLEEN CURNOW, WITNESS: Yes, we're holding up, over here (ph). It's - it is rough. This was just, you know, across a small street from my home, my boy (ph) watched this unfold, and actually shoot out with the neighbor occurred in my driveway, and it's rough. It's rough.
CABRERA: Walk me through what you and your husband witnessed.
CURNOW: We had just been out running some errands, we came home probably about 45 minutes before it started, and we were trying to find what went - ironically, we needed to do some stuff outside, and we were being a little bit lazy and said you know what, let's get this stuff out of the house and we're just talking and you know, we hear some - at first I thought they were fireworks and my husband says (ph) fireworks, really? You know, it's Sunday in church. And there was just four or five shots and my husband looked out the window that is right next to him and says "there's a shooter at the church."
I grabbed his phone and I said "come on, come on." We were trying to go to the opposite side of the house, and so I call 911 and I call it in, and my husband goes through the kitchen and he's looking out the window, and I'm trying to - I'm begging him to "please go way - come away" and "I've got to get the license plate. I've got to get the information." (ph)
And he just - he's telling me what's happening, and I'm conveying to the operator what's going on that the shooter started outside the church and kind of went up to the door and around the right side if you're looking at the church. And he came back to his vehicle, and at this point I'm trying - pleading with my husband to get away from the window, and I see him - the shooter is like getting something out of his vehicle. He kind of fumbles with it, and then my husband said "just get back at them." (ph)
So I did, and that's when the shooter went into the church and fired. He came back and the neighbor down the street ran up, and in third (inaudible), the red car, he's behind my car and he's (inaudible), the shooter. And I hear they're closer (ph), and I call to my husband. He doesn't answer, so I come back to the front because, you know, to know what's going on, and I saw the shooter had just driven off. I see the gentleman that was at the intersection in a vehicle. He was stopped, and our neighbor ran quickly told them what was happening.
They got in the vehicle and they took off. Shortly thereafter, a first responder came up and I said "the vehicle went down that way." I've got family members that live down the street, and we were just trying to keep people from going in to church because the service and the many people who - people who run late. Things happen. (inaudible) My husband went across to the church. He was trying to see if there was anything he could do with what has happened. He was trying - it was bad.
CURNOW: It was like (ph) right now just really doesn't want to talk to anybody. (inaudible)
CABRERA: I can only imagine how traumatic this is for both of you. Kathleen, you sound so brave. I heard you say you actually witnessed this neighbor, who apparently lived nearby, exchange gun fire with the gunman? CURNOW: Correct. If you see the videos (inaudible) the house with the red car and the black truck and they're kind of staggered, that is my house. Our neighbor who is a very good friend - I've known him almost all my life - is between my car and the truck and exchanging gunfire. And, of course, for me this is very, very loud. It was surreal.
My husband and I are both (like the security cam gun), we have had them here, but it's no match for what's happened (what then the shooter had.) And our first instinct was to just get law enforcement and get the calls out, and (inaudible).
CABRERA: Do you know any of the victims personally?
CURNOW: I'm sorry?
CABRERA: Do you know any of the victims personally?
CURNOW: There are a few. I actually do not attend this church, but living this close, their always very, very (inaudible), and I've given (inaudible) and things from church. They'd come over and hide in myself and my family, and my kids were small to attend the (inaudible), things like that. The church I know Frank Pomeroy. I - a few of the people that I've heard that didn't make it, I did know. It's - watching the news, all the stations, these are people I know. Whom I've known all my life. The first person they brought out was a little girl (inaudible) (8 years old), and they brought her (inaudible). And they said "keep her here."
And that broke my heart...
CABRERA: Kathleen, stay strong.
CURNOW: ... and I know that the rest of her family was not - her stepfather was OK, but the rest of the family didn't make it, and just (to look into her eyes) she was a brave little girl. She just had (a little lump.)
CABRERA: I am so, so sorry, Kathleen, to hear that. And please know our heart is with you, with your family, and your community tonight. Thank you for sharing with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for being with me for our breaking news coverage of the shooting at this church in Texas. Our colleague, Michael Holmes, continues right now.