The tragic shooting in a Texas church claimed the life of 26 people in one of the deadliest attacks in U.S. history.
The shooter, Devin Patrick Kelly, was killed by gunowners at the scene shortly after carrying out the massacre. Authorities are still investigating the situation and gathering information, but one problem remains – the FBI can’t access the gunman’s phone.
Christopher Combs, a special agent who is heading the shooting investigation reported the problem on Tuesday. “They’re in the process of looking at the phone. Unfortunately, at this time, we are unable to get into that phone.”
Investigators are searching for any information that would reveal the shooter’s motives or background. This information could also provide leads on any potential coconspirators in the crime. Apple had contacted the FBI after viewing the press conference covering the tragedy.
A representative of the company noted that they’d reached out to FBI officials after learning they were trying to access the phone. The rep said the company offered assistance and even said they’d expedite any legal process sent over in response to the situation.
The company notes they’re used to working with law enforcement, and trains agents to help understand the devices and how they could request information from the company if necessary. The representative also confirmed that law enforcement had yet to request help accessing the man’s phone.
Some believe that had the law enforcement agents contacted the company sooner, they would’ve been able to preserve access to the device. The iPhone’s fingerprint sensor won’t work if the user hasn’t activated it in the past two days. This means that for 48-hours following Kelley’s death, officials may have been able to use a copy of his fingerprint to unlock the device.
This situation is reminiscent of the one in 2016, where Apple clashed with FBI officials over access to Syed Farook’s phone after he’d acted as an attacker in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.
FBI officials have repeatedly called for Apple and other companies like it to install workarounds into their devices for just such an occasion. They claim law enforcement officials need to be able to access these devices in the event of an emergency.
This has given way to many debates about privacy, government surveillance, private companies’ willingness to turn over personal information without consent, and more.
Reports state that the Texas shooter was able to buy weapons because of an error made by the Air Force. Kelly had served, but was dishonorably discharged due to a domestic violence charge. This made him ineligible to purchase a firearm legally, drawing concerns about why he wasn’t put into the proper database.
The situation has led to questions about how these crimes should be logged, what steps could’ve been taken to prevent the tragedy, and whether Kelley has any unknown ties that would shed light on this gruesome tragedy. The church where the massacre took place will be torn down, as the pastor says it serves as too stark of a reminder to the horrific event.