The FBI has the Texas church shooter's phone, but can't get in

Sutherland springs texas church shootingScott Olson/Getty ImagesLaw enforcement officials continue their investigation into the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 7, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
  • The FBI has the Texas church gunman’s phone, but it can’t unlock it.
  • The development recalls the FBI’s dispute with Apple after the San Bernardino shooting in 2015.
  • Investigators are hoping the phone could contain clues to help explain the gunman’s motive.

FBI agents have gotten hold of the cell phone belonging to the gunman who killed 26 people in a Texas church on Sunday. But there’s one problem — it can’t get in.

“They’re in the process of looking at the phone,” Christopher Combs, the special agent leading the investigation into the shooting, told reporters on Tuesday. “Unfortunately at this time, we are unable to get into that phone.”

Investigators are hoping the phone contains clues that could help explain Devin Kelley’s motive for entering First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, with an assault rifle and opening fire on parishioners.

The attack ended when an armed resident fired back at Kelley and pursued him when he drove away. Kelley was soon found dead in his vehicle in what officials have said was likely a suicide.

The FBI’s inability to gain access into Kelley’s phone recalled the agency’s dispute with Apple in the aftermath of the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. In that case, Apple repeatedly denied the FBI’s request to unlock the iPhone of one of the two perpetrators of the shooting, which left 14 people dead. The FBI eventually unlocked the phone with the help of a third party.

“With the advance of the technology and the phones and the encryptions, law enforcement … is increasingly not able to get into these phones,” Combs said.

On Tuesday, Combs declined to specify what type of phone the Texas church gunman had.

“I don’t want to tell every bad guy out there what phone to buy, to harass our efforts on trying to find justice here,” Combs said. “I can assure you that we’re working very hard to get into the phone, and that will continue until we find an answer.”

Kelley’s motivation for the attack is still unclear, although officials have ruled out racial or religious animus. Officials instead pointed to a possible “domestic situation” with his mother-in-law, who previously attended the First Baptist Church, but was not present during the attack.

Watch the FBI special agent’s comments below:

Christopher Combs: “At this point in time we are unable to get into [the suspect’s] phone.” pic.twitter.com/IUMo9lPhA6
— Fox News (@FoxNews) November 7, 2017

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