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

  • 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.

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First Baptist Church -- November 5

First responders are at the scene of shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell

Gainesville  - October 19

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 19: Self-described white nationalist Tyler Tenbrink, of Houston, Texas, watches as demonstrators gather near the site of a planned speech by Richard Spencer, who popularized the term 'alt-right', at the University of Florida campus on October 19, 2017 in Gainesville, Florida. Tenbrink was later arrested, along with friends William Fears and Tyler Fears, in relation to a shooting following the speech. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest Music Festival - October 1

A man attaches photos to one of many white crosses set up for the victims of the Route 91 Harvest music festival mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Chapel Church of Christ - September 24

The scene where people were injured when gunfire erupted at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., September 24, 2017. Metro Nashville Police Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY

Congress baseball practice - June 14 

A police officer guards the shooting scene after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Ft Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport - January 6

A shooting victim is unloaded on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Authorities said multiple people have died after a lone suspect opened fire at the Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/TNS via Getty Images)


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:

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SEE ALSO: The Texas church shooter has a disturbing history of domestic violence, including charges of animal cruelty and fracturing his infant stepson's skull


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