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Pence, Abbott attend vigil for victims of church shooting

November 9, 2017
Associated Press

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at a memorial service for the victims of Sunday's massacre at a small-town Texas church.

Pence told the crowd Wednesday evening that the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs was the worst mass shooting at a church in American history and called the gunman "deranged."

"Whatever animated the evil that descended on that small church, if the attacker's desire was to silence their testimony of faith, they failed," the vice president added.

Abbott began the service by praying "for healing and for help."

The governor said Texans come together at times of crisis and tragedy. "It's what we do," Abbott said. People in the crowd responded "amen."

He also proclaimed Sunday, Nov. 12 a statewide day of prayer.

Authorities have reviewed video from inside the church where a gunman killed more than two dozen, including footage that shows the assailant shooting victims in the head during Sunday services, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

The official's account of the video is consistent with statements made by survivors of the attack. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

The same U.S. official confirmed that the attacker's cellphone was an iPhone and that the FBI had not yet asked Apple for help obtaining data from the device.

The church regularly recorded its services, and the footage investigators have seen shows several minutes of the attack because there was "no one to turn it off," according to a law enforcement official who has seen the video. The official also spoke on condition of anonymity because that person was not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation.

The law enforcement official was among those who went inside the First Baptist Church after the attack and said several of the pews were overturned, although it was unclear whether that was from the attack or from rescue efforts. Bullets had splintered the walls and pews, leaving shards of wood all over the floors.

Pence arrived in Texas on Wednesday, visiting wounded victims at a San Antonio hospital and later meeting families of the dead in Floresville, not far from Sutherland Springs.

Pence went from table to table at a high school library attempting to console devastated family members.

"The whole country is praying over you," he told one man who lost his sister-in-law.

He stopped to talk with John Holcombe, whose family was decimated by the shooting. Holcombe, who suffered shrapnel wounds, lost his wife, Crystal — who was pregnant with their first child — three of her children, his parents, a brother and a toddler niece.

Pence hugged 7-year-old Evelyn Holcombe, who survived by running out of the church during the attack.

Earlier Wednesday, Pence said President Donald Trump had ordered federal agencies to provide extensive help to the investigation, including 100 on-site FBI agents.

The agent in charge of the FBI's San Antonio division said Tuesday that agents had not been able to retrieve data from Devin Patrick Kelley's cellphone.

In a statement Wednesday evening, Apple said it had offered the FBI technical advice after learning the bureau was trying to access the phone. The company said the FBI had not requested its assistance.

Depending on the model of iPhone and what security features it had, FBI agents might have had a short window to use alternative methods to access its data.

For instance, if the iPhone used Apple's Touch ID fingerprint sensing system, agents could have tried placing the dead gunman's finger on the phone to unlock it. But that would have worked only within 48 hours of the last time the phone was locked.

Meanwhile, more details emerged about the gunman's past. School records showed that Kelley had disciplinary problems in high school.

In fall 2006, Kelley's sophomore year, he was suspended and sent to an alternative school for two months after an unspecified drug-related incident.

He was suspended twice as a junior and three times as a senior for reasons including "insubordination," ''profane language/gestures" and "dishonest/false records."

With each passing year at New Braunfels High School, his grades slipped as well, according to the records.

A B-student overall as a freshman, he failed several classes by his senior year and ended up ranked 260 out of 393 students in his graduating class in 2009. He finished with a 2.3 GPA.

The records also listed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as one of his medical conditions.

A former friend said Kelley asked her for sexual favors and prevented his first wife from communicating with her friends. Kelsey Huckaby told Austin television station KTBC that Kelley was "kind of controlling of his girlfriends" in high school.

Huckaby said she lost contact with Kelley until he responded to a Facebook post she made in April asking for a place to stay for her and her boyfriend. She said Kelley offered to let them stay in a trailer on his property if she performed weekly "sexual favors" for him.

Also Wednesday, the Texas Department of Public Safety released an official list of those killed in the rampage. The eight male victims and 17 female victims ranged in age from 1 to 77. Eight of the fatalities were children or teenagers. The oldest of them was 16.

Authorities said the 26 dead also included the unborn baby of a woman who was killed.

All the victims died at the scene, except for one child who died at a San Antonio-area hospital.

Eleven people remained hospitalized with wounds they suffered in the attack.

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Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles and Matt O'Brien in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that the governor declared Sunday, Nov. 12 to be a statewide day of prayer.

 
 
 

 

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