Scenes From The Ground: The Mass Church Shooting In Sutherland Springs, Texas

Nov 5, 2017
Originally published on November 5, 2017 9:32 pm
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NOEL KING, HOST:

We're going to start today's show in Texas, where news broke earlier today that someone walked into a church in the small town of Sutherland Springs and opened fire. Details are still sketchy, so we have on the line David Martin Davies of member station KSTX in San Antonio. David, thank you for being with us.

DAVID MARTIN DAVIES, BYLINE: Great to be here, Noel.

KING: Also with me in studio is NPR's Colin Dwyer. Colin, thanks for coming in.

COLIN DWYER, BYLINE: Thank you.

KING: David, I want to start with you. What do we know about this shooting so far?

DAVIES: We have not had an official briefing yet, although the shooting happened five hours ago. Right now, we're waiting for Governor Greg Abbott, Texas governor, to give us that briefing. So we're on standby. All we know is that the town of Sutherland Springs, population of 643, an unincorporated town, got the First Baptist Church - and a convenience store and a few homes, that's about it. Someone walked in there at 11 o'clock our time and opened fire.

KING: David, you point out that it has been a couple of hours. Do you know why we don't have an official response yet?

DAVIES: There's a lot of people who are dead, a lot of people who are wounded. They're family members and friends. This whole community, they need to hear first from law enforcement what happened before, you know, it gets addressed in the media. That's happening right now. I'm now at Stockdale Community Center City Hall.

Earlier, I was at the community center for Sutherlands Springs. That's where they told the media to gather, and that's where the community was gathering. And it was an emotional scene. People were breaking down. People were hugging. People were greeting each other with joy because they didn't know who was alive, who was dead. And many of these people are losing family, losing friends, losing neighbors. So we've got to deal with this in a very sensitive manner.

KING: Can you tell us a little bit about the town of Sutherland Springs? You say it's a small town, I assume a rural place?

DAVIES: Yes, very rural, 40 miles, 50 miles east of San Antonio. This is a church - this is kind of a blue jeans and working boots kind of a church. It's a big part of the community. I talked to another pastor who was at a nearby church, Pastor Buford (ph). He was talking about how they were having their service at that same time. They had first responders in the congregation. Their radios started going off saying all units respond and make their way to the First Baptist Church. And that's where - and I talked to a person that lived across the street from the church, and he talked about how many people are expected to be - we're talking over 20 people are dead.

KING: And because this is such a small place, as you say, most people do know each other. The residents that you've spoken to, I imagine what you're hearing is a lot of shock and a lot of horror.

DAVIES: It is a lot of shock, a lot of horror. And what - and how does this happen? If it could happen here, in this part of Texas, it can happen anywhere. I mean, I never thought it would happen here because this is, you know, Texas and everybody. But there's an assailant who walked in there, was well-armed, well-armored. And he opened fire before anyone had a chance to respond and - but he's now dead. That has been confirmed that the shooter is dead shooter. The threat is over.

KING: The shooter is dead?

DAVIES: Yes.

KING: Collin, I know you've been monitoring from here in Washington, D.C. Do we know anything about the shooter?

DWYER: We do not actually at the moment. As David mentioned, details at the moment are still evolving, still rather sparse. At the moment, we do know that the shooter entered in the late morning, well-armed, well-armored and that he is dead. At the moment, it doesn't appear that authorities believe this is terrorism related. Of course, that could change over time. But the congressman for Wilson County said, at the moment, preliminary research indicates that this is not terrorism related.

KING: And, David, you said this is not the kind of place where you would expect any of this to happen. Tell me why.

DAVIES: Well, almost everybody around here has a gun. You know, this is Texas. The people here, they really believe in the Second Amendment. And there are - a lot of folks here are armed and have the sense of security with that that someone is going to be able to rise to the challenge. But when you have someone who enters into a facility ready to kill multiple people, you're not going to be able to do much good before many people are wounded or killed.

KING: I can hear the astonishment there in your voice. And, Colin, I know that there have been several official reactions on Twitter. Has the President said anything about the shooting?

DWYER: He has, in fact. As you know, he is on a trip in Asia at the moment, but he did tweet out the fact that he is monitoring the situation from Japan right now. And he added on Twitter - may God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI and law enforcement are on the scene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.