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Texas Shooting Victims Could Sue US—and Win

Law professor makes the case; also, authorities say a church camera recorded the massacre
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2017 12:32 PM CST

(Newser) – First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, often recorded its church services, raising the disturbing possibility that Sunday's massacre was captured on video. Now the New York Times reports that such a gruesome video does indeed exist. One law enforcement official says it shows Devin Kelley firing continuously for about seven minutes, "methodically shooting his victims—including small children—in the head, execution-style," the Times notes. Other developments in the investigation:

  • Encrypted phone: Authorities have Kelley's smartphone but have run into a familiar problem, reports the AP. They can't crack the encryption and open it. The FBI will try to gain access on its own, but the development is likely to renew the fight over whether companies such as Apple should provide some kind of back door authorities can use to bypass the encryption. It's not clear what type of phone Kelley had.

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  • Victims could sue the US: Survivors and families of the victims should sue the US government over the shooting—because they'd probably win, writes law professor John Culhane at Politico. Typically, suing the government is all but impossible because of sovereign immunity, but the Federal Torts Claims Act allows exceptions for "garden-variety negligence," and the "appalling" failure of the Air Force to enter the shooter's name into a national gun database may qualify as such.
  • 'Miserable': A Michigan man who stayed at the Summit Vacation Resort in New Braunfels, where Kelley worked as a security guard, tells KSAT that Kelley "seemed miserable" days before the shooting. Chuck Jackson says Kelley got cross with him when Jackson asked about his kids using the pool, coming across as "a guy that just seemed miserable in life."
  • False information: Snopes is trying to keep up with what it calls an "avalanche" of false reports in the wake of the shooting. The site debunks a few in circulation, including one that Kelley was an atheist on the Democratic National Committee payroll.
  • The victims: ABC News rounds up the identities of those killed, including 1-year-old Noah Holcombe. Another is Peggy Lynn Warden, 56, who reportedly died while shielding her 18-year-old grandson, who was shot but survived, per MySanAntonio.com.
Kelley had attended the church's fall festival just days before his rampage. (Read more Texas mass shooting stories.)

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