Las Vegas Killings May Still Yield Criminal Charges

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department lawyers say criminal charges related to the Oct. 1 massacre may be coming in the next 60 days. The disclosure came at a court hearing on whether search warrant records pertaining to the Las Vegas shooting investigation should be unsealed.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department lawyers say criminal charges related to the Oct. 1 massacre may be coming in the next 60 days, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The disclosure came at a court hearing on whether search warrant records pertaining to the Las Vegas shooting investigation should be unsealed. Metro attorneys argued that the documents should remain sealed because they may be used to support charges related to the investigation. They did not say who may face charges or what the charges may be. After Stephen Paddock killed 58 concertgoers before killing himself, law enforcement officials have identified no other suspects, though Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, was identified as a person of interest.

Danley has said that Paddock “never said anything to me — or took any action that I was aware of — that I understood in any way to be a warning that something horrible like this was going to happen.” In court Tuesday, Review-Journal attorney Maggie McLetchie said, “The press has an important role in being able to get access to this warrant information and help the public understand what occurred in regard to what warrants law enforcement got, what came back and what the actual facts are. The horrific incidents of 1 October were over three months ago. The public still has many, many questions.”


Las Vegas Gunman Tried to Thwart Shooting Probe

Newly released documents on the Oct. 1 shooting do not answer what motivated Stephen Paddock to carry out the attack. He purchased the items used in his shooting during the year leading up to it, the FBI said, and a large share of the ammunition and accessories he amassed appear to have been bought online.

Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas gunman who opened fire on concertgoers in October, carefully prepared both for the attack and the investigation that would follow, the Washington Post reports. In newly released court documents that detail early days of the investigation, Paddock, 64, is described as spending significant time amassing his weapons and stockpiling ammunition while seeking “to thwart the eventual law enforcement investigation” into the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Paddock, firing from high-rise hotel suite at the Mandalay Bay resort, killed 58 people and injured hundreds of others at a country-music festival on the Las Vegas Strip before killing himself.

The newly released documents do not answer what motivated Paddock to carry out the attack. Paddock purchased the items used in his attack during the year leading up to it, the FBI said, and a large share of the ammunition and accessories he amassed appear to have been bought online. Federal authorities said Paddock used “anonymously attributed communications devices,” destroyed or concealed digital storage and had at least three cellphones in the hotel suite where he opened fire. Investigators searching Paddock’s hotel rooms, his vehicle and homes found more than 20 guns, hundreds of rounds of unused ammunition, suitcases partially filled with “pre-loaded high capacity magazines,” body armor, a homemade gas mask and explosive materials. Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, said that she had assumed Paddock was breaking up with her, continuing that it “never occurred to me in any way whatsoever that he was planning violence against anyone.” Federal authorities sought access to email addresses used by Paddock and Danley as well as Instagram, Facebook, Google and Amazon accounts they might have used. Danley’s Facebook account was set to private and then deleted in the hours after the shooting.


Will Keeping Mass Killers Out of the Media Spotlight Save Lives?

How much do we really need to know about rampage killers? As little as possible, say Tom and Caren Teves, whose son Alex was murdered in the 2012 Aurora, Co. theater massacre. In a conversation with TCR, they report on the status of their “No Notoriety” campaign, which asks the media to focus on victims instead of perpetrators .

When authorities in Texas made a point of not mentioning the name of a man who killed 26 people during Sunday church services in November, saying they did not want to glorify him, their gesture was only the most recent expression of a sentiment that has found growing support in law enforcement and journalism.

The notion that rampage killers act, in part, out of a craving for attention—the so-called “contagion effect”—has long found support in psychiatric and scholarly thought. But the popular urge to curb the problem by changing how journalists cover mass shootings can trace its roots to a moment on CNN in 2012, three days after the Aurora, Colorado, theater massacre, when Tom Teves, an anguished father of one of the shooting victims, lashed out at news-coverage priorities.

“Why are we talking about that person?” Teves asked after the shooter’s first court appearance ended up plastering the airwaves and social media with his bug-eyed, orange-haired visage. Why not ignore him, Teves challenged—and focus instead on victims like Teves’ son Alex, 24, who was killed after heroically jumping into the line of fire to shield his girlfriend?

Alex Teves

Alex Teves. Photo courtesy Caren and Tom Teves

In the more than five years since, Teves’ first reaction grew into the No Notoriety campaign that Teves and his wife Caren run from their home in Phoenix. It has been endorsed by major law enforcement groups and a number of media figures, including Teves’ original CNN interviewer, Anderson Cooper.

Others have mounted like-minded efforts, among them the FBI-endorsed Don’t Name Them campaign developed by the ALERRT Center at Texas State University; and guidelines crafted by Columbia Journalism Review, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, and Mother Jones magazine. But, thanks to the Teves’ flair for branding, and their stature as a murder victim’s survivors, theirs has gotten much of the attention.

Aurora victims

Photo courtesy No Notoriety

While No Notoriety’s approach is simple—urging journalists to curtail “gratuitous” uses of shooters’ names and likenesses—applying its standards has been anything but.

TCR contributor Mark Obbie spoke to Tom and Caren Teves recently about why they do this work, the evolution of their idea, and their frustration with a news industry that they see as obsessed with profit over all else. The conversation transcript was edited for brevity and clarity.

The Crime Report: Your interview with Anderson Cooper, the very first appearance you made about this, gave me the impression that this idea came to you fairly spontaneously. Is that right?

Tom Teves: Yes and no. It’s something that I’ve thought of in the back of my mind, that glorifying killers was wrong. But, honestly, I didn’t even think to do it until I watched the lead-up to us being on camera, and it was still all about the killer. And I was like, “Anderson, can you go 12 seconds without talking about him, without saying his name?” In the days before that, the only information that we could get from the news media was about the killer.

Caren Teves: This was at the time when we had no idea what had happened to Alex. We were on vacation in Hawaii. We just got a phone call from his girlfriend saying that there was a shooting.

TT: So then we went on the news and went online and tried to find out what’s going on. We were using everything. We were calling and calling and calling. But there was no information.

CT: All we kept seeing was information focused on the shooter, nothing about the victims, nothing about where people can call if they had missing loved ones, or where to convene in Denver, or what phone numbers to call. Nothing. It was just all about this evil thing, what he did, his background, his parents, where he lived, what he looked like, his Facebook page, you know, where he went to school — everything surrounding this individual, and meanwhile we’re trying to find out if our son is still alive.

TT: Here’s somebody who snuck up behind a whole bunch of people with an automatic weapon where they were powerless, actually planned it out so they’d be as powerless as possible, and mowed them down with armor-piercing bullets. And we’re making this thing into a hero? It should be the scourge of our society.

CT: So fast-forward from Hawaii to us landing in Denver. We were just too distraught to speak to anyone. We had to hide in our hotel. But the media started trying to learn more about the victims, finally. And they were getting Alex’s picture wrong, and they couldn’t pronounce his name. So we said we have to come out of hiding to be able to get the correct information out there. That’s when Tom went and spoke to Anderson (Cooper). Unfortunately our son was killed and that gave us a national voice at that point. So Tom decided to use it. And that’s pretty much how it got started.

TCR: At the beginning, your idea sounded pretty absolute: Ignore the shooters entirely, not just who they are but why they acted. When I read your recommendations now, they sound more nuanced. How did your thinking change?

CT: We’re trying to be realistic.

TT: It was a spontaneous moment a day or two after my firstborn son was murdered. I wasn’t completely in my rational mind.

TCR: Understandably.

TT:I’m a businessman. I understand how business works. And I know you guys are all in business to make money. Nobody goes into business not to make money, including the non-profits. We have to set it up so that you can do your job. I think we’ve made a lot of progress, not with the sensationalist reporters who, you know, basically have no soul, but with people who want to actually run their craft and do a good job and really care about their place in society and how important journalism is to our republic. We wanted to set that up so that it could work.

We know you have to identify the person. What we’re saying is, if you have to say it, say the name once. We found articles that in six paragraphs—and this is true—the name was said 41 times. What we wanted to do was just get people to act responsibly. Don’t turn them into antiheroes. Certainly limit the use of their pictures. If you’re gonna show a picture, show ’em in shackles. Or better yet show ’em dead, ’cause that’s what these people are: 95 percent of them are suicidal people who want to go out in a blaze of glory. And you guys provide the glory. And that’s scary, because you can stop it.

CT: There was a lot more pushback in the beginning. But as we move forward and this is being more recognized, the pushback is not as much because the killers themselves are proving our point and the researchers’ point. They’re telling us themselves, through their manifestos and whatever they leave behind, “We are looking for this glory.” And they’re getting it. So they keep using it.

TCR: What about the argument by journalists that writing about the shooters helps prevent shootings because it makes everyone more aware of the warning signs?

TT: We never said, “Don’t say that.” We never said, “Don’t write every detail about them.” (Instead) we’ve said, “Do all the research that you want. But understand, as you’re doing the research, one of the material causes of the shootings is the (killers) want to be famous. Go and find out where (they) went to school, what happened with (their) mother, all the other stuff.” But you’re also going to find that almost every one of them, and every (mass shooter) in recent times, tracks back to other killers.

CT: In the Sandy Hook (school massacre), the killer had a chart. So, whenever we see “the worst mass shooting,” we cringe because that’s a benchmark. He had (a spreadsheet) of all previous mass shootings, how many people died. So they research other killers. And the research is readily available for that.

TT: The benchmark right now is like 60 and 500—60 people dead, 500 people shot. So the next person’s gonna have to do worse. Think about it.

Editor’s Note: In the Oct. 1 shootings in Las Vegas, 58 died, with 546 others injured; many but not all from gunshots.

CT: Yeah, it’s a terrifying thought.

TCR: Do you think your efforts have made this a topic of conversation during the coverage of recent mass shootings?

CT: This is not a new concept. This theory and this proven effect has been around forever. But unfortunately we were given a voice. Alex was horribly, brutally murdered by someone who just wanted to make a name for himself. At that point, that’s when people are knocking on your doors. So I think we did bring it to a topic of conversation. And if that moved the needle, then it moved the needle.

Tom and Caren Teves

TT: Believe me, I’d rather not have the collateral we have to get you to listen to us. I’d rather have my son back. But the reason Anderson Cooper listened to me is because my son was murdered. Now I said something that resonated. (Forensic psychiatrist) Park Dietz has been studying this. Nobody’s listening to him because, fortunately for him, he doesn’t have to live with what we have to live with, right?

CT: Where we’ve come the farthest with No Notoriety is to elevate the victims and the heroes. More media now show the names of the fallen and the heroes and they tell more of those stories.

TT: USA Today is one of the worst. They had a story about remembering the mass shooting victims of 2017. And it was a fairly long, well-written story. And I want to say in the front of my brain, thanks for starting to look at the victims. But the back of my brain says are you doing this just to give yourself some cover so the next time this happens you can sell a whole bunch of newspapers with the next jerk’s picture and splash them all over the place so that you have some cover, so you have some moral sort of high ground? You could make the argument that what the media wants is more victims so that you can continue to have compelling reasons to click, to tune in, to buy your newspapers.

TCR: Do you really think anybody thinks that way?

TT: You know, I don’t. But when I see really intelligent people whose job it is to look at facts and report facts and make decisions on facts completely ignore the magnitude of data and evidence that says this is causing this, this is a material reason they do it, the cynic in me says, “You’re just trying to make money.”

CT: The fact that it’s continuing speaks very loud. But what we found is the journalists that we speak to, they’re on board, I’d say 90 percent of them at this point. It’s farther up in the chain where it starts to deteriorate.

TCR: You mean management?

CT: Yes.

TT: Your publishers, your editors, the people who are responsible for the dollars and cents. It will change. And the reason I know it will change is when we go to the SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists), and we usually have a panel at the SPJ, attendance at that panel gets larger and larger. It takes an hour at this point for me to leave that panel for all the young people coming up to me saying “You are so right. We couldn’t agree with you more. We want to change the industry.” So it’s gonna change.

CT: It will. I believe it.

TT: I think the other way to change it, if the media doesn’t do it on their own, is that we will have to figure out a way to pressure the advertisers to force the media to do it.

TCR: What about your well- being? The best way to promote your campaign is to monitor mass shootings closely and talk about your experience over and over. Aren’t you just keeping your own pain fresh?

CT: Yes. It’s like Groundhog Day. But it’s not about us. We’re trying to spare other people this pain. There are multiple ways to reduce this greatly, this being only just one of them. And when it keeps happening and happening and happening, every time it happens again I know what lies ahead for the survivors. I think to myself, “Wasn’t Alex enough? Wasn’t he just enough?” And it’s heartbreaking. And you know those 20 (Sandy Hook) parents, those 20 first-graders, they’re thinking “Wasn’t my kid enough to make change?” If the media had changed immediately following Columbine, I do believe my son would still be alive. I truly do.


TT: The sad thing about this is, if you do the right thing, it’s heroic in the truest sense, because no one will ever know whose life you saved. Because that kid won’t come out of the cellar with his AR-15 and shoot up a supermarket or a church because there will be no call to action. You won’t even know you saved somebody’s life. And you know something? To me, that’s the true hero. It’s the person who does the right thing for no reason other than it’s the right thing.

Mark Obbie, a former executive editor of The American Lawyer, writes on criminal justice issues for a variety of online and print publications, including The New York Times, The Trace, and TakePart. He can also be reached through his Twitter account. He welcomes readers’ comments.


Mental Health Reforms Unfunded After Newtown

Five years after 20 children and six teachers were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, mental health advocates are optimistic but reforms in last year’s 21st Century Cures Act remain unfunded.

The massacre at Newtown, Ct.’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, which happened five years ago Thursday,  prompted calls for tighter controls on guns and improved mental health treatment. Now, mental health care providers are waiting for promised boosts in funding, and many families are still battling insurance companies to cover their children’s services, the Associated Press reports. While advocates say the quality of mental health care varies widely by state, they also see a potential for improvement in their push for more early intervention programs and changing public attitudes about mental illness. “There’s a lot of reason to feel optimistic,” said Ron Honberg of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “But there are a lot of challenges too, particularly around financing these services.”

The 21st Century Cures Act, signed by President Obama last December, was inspired in part by Newtown and included the first major mental health reform package in nearly a decade. Grants for intensive early intervention for infants and young children showing signs of mental illness still await funding. U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, a Democrat whose district includes Newtown, said that if such laws are not funded, “it’s a nice piece of paper … hanging on somebody’s wall, but it’s not going to help save lives.” Mental health experts say most people diagnosed with psychiatric disorders do not commit violent crimes, and no motive has ever been determined for the massacre in which Adam Lanza fatally shot his mother and then gunned down 20 children and six educators. A report by the Connecticut Child Advocate noted Lanza’s mother rejected recommendations that her son get treatment for anxiety and other conditions. It said his “severe and deteriorating internalized mental health problems,” when combined with a preoccupation with violence and access to deadly weapons, “proved a recipe for mass murder.”


Media Coverage of Recent Mass Shootings Quickly Stopped

Two days after 26 people were massacred in a Texas church, coverage by major cable news networks had nearly vanished, as charted by TV News Archive. It is the latest indication that rampage gun attacks aren’t generating the kind of sustained news coverage they once did.

Two days after 26 people were massacred in a Texas church, one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history had nearly vanished from the major cable news networks, The Trace reports. The sharp drop-off in the number of mentions of the Sutherland Springs shooting on the networks, as charted by TV News Archive, is the latest indication that rampage gun attacks aren’t generating the kind of sustained news coverage they once did. On Nov. 5, the day of the massacre, 0.26 percent of all sentences spoken on CNN, CNBC, FOX, FOX Business, MSNBC, and Bloomberg made reference to the Sutherland Springs shooting or the gunman, Devin Kelley. By Nov. 14, mentions of the shooting had nearly flatlined on those six networks.

A previous analysis of coverage of the massacre in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 — which killed 58 people and wounded hundreds of others, making it the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history — found that mentions of the shooting on those six networks dropped off within six days, and had all but vanished from coverage within two weeks. One gun-reform advocate, concerned by the fact that mass shootings slip from the news cycle so quickly, had hoped that the tragic details of the massacre would ensure that Sutherland Springs was discussed longer than other mass shootings that featured an element of domestic violence. “Up until now, the media would lose interest in a shooting once they found out it was a domestic violence incident and not a ‘real’ crime,” said Amanda Johnson of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Sutherland Springs is a game changer.” Judging by an analysis of the cable news coverage, it wasn’t.


Attorney: Sandy Hook Killer Beguiled by AR-15 Gun Ads

The Connecticut Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in the lawsuit against Remington by families of those killed by Adam Lanza in the 2012 school massacre. The plaintiffs’ attorney said, “It wasn’t just that [Remington] marketed the weapon looking for people with characteristics of Adam Lanza but that Adam Lanza heard the message.”

Connecticut Supreme Court justices spent more than 90 minutes Tuesday peppering attorneys for Remington and victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre with questions about the merits of a lawsuit filed by the families seeking to hold the gun manufacturer liable for Adam Lanza’s shooting spree, reports the Hartford Courant. In front of a packed courtroom, the five justices focused their questions on “negligent entrustment,” 100-year-old Connecticut laws and how a case about a slingshot injury in Michigan equates to one of the worst mass shootings in the country’s history. It was difficult to ascertain any pattern in the justices’ questions. At one point, Justice Richard Palmer asked Remington attorney James Vogts what legitimate uses there were for an AR-15 assault rifle, noting that plaintiffs called the weapon used in the Newtown school shooting a “killing machine.” Vogts said it is used for target practice, deer hunting and home security.

Legal experts say the case will come down to how the justices will interpret two possible exceptions allowed under by the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA— whether Remington can be held liable for “negligent entrustment” or whether it violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. Negligent entrustment is defined as “supplying of a qualified product by a seller for use by another person when the seller knows, or reasonably should know, the person to whom the product is supplied is likely to, and does, use the product in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to the person or others.” Plaintiffs’ attorney Josh Koskoff said Remington had been “courting” Lanza for years through its ads. He said, “It wasn’t just that [Remington] marketed the weapon looking for people with characteristics of Adam Lanza but that Adam Lanza heard the message. He idolized the military and wanted to be an Army Ranger and Remington marketed the AR-15 as the weapon used by the Army Rangers.”


Neighbors Say Latest CA Spree Killer Was ‘Off the Hinges’

Kevin Neal, 43, was facing trial in January on assault and other charges in connection with a long-running dispute with his neighbors in a rural northern California town. His 45-minute shooting ended with his death when police rammed his truck and exchanged shots in a fierce rolling gun battle.

The man who went on a shooting spree Tuesday in Rancho Tehama, Calif., killing four and wounding 10, was being prosecuted for assault stemming from an attack on neighbors in January and possession of an AR-15 assault weapon, reports the Red Bluff Daily News. Kevin Janson Neal, 43, was arrested Jan. 31 on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. He was set to stand trial in January 2018 for assault with a deadly weapon and other charges. Tehama County District Attorney Gregg Cohen said Neal had a long-running dispute with his neighbors. He allegedly shot through a wooden fence at two female neighbors in the January incident, then jumped the fence and stabbed one of them. The Associated Press said Neal was a marijuana grower. Neighbors in the town 125 north of Sacramento described him as “off the hinges.”

While Tuesday’s shooting began at 7:52 a.m. near his home, it was not confirmed whether the neighbors were among the victims. Neal eventually fired shots at seven locations, including Rancho Tehama Elementary School. After hearing shots nearby, school staff members put the school on lockdown, and when the shooter arrived–crashing his truck through security gates–he was unable to get into the building, authorities said. Neal fired at a number of classrooms, injuring one or two students. He left the school after six minutes and continued his rampage in other locations, apparently firing rounds from an assault rifle and two handguns at randomly selected victims. Neal was killed 45 minutes after his spree began when police rammed his truck and exchanged shots in a fierce rolling gun battle.


Sandy Hook Parents Argue Gun Case at CT High Court

Connecticut Supreme Court justices heard arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit by the victims of the 2015 school massacre against Remington, the manufacturer of the assault weapon used in the shooting.

The eyes of the legal world and both sides of the growing debate about the role of guns in society were focused on the Connecticut Supreme Court Tuesday morning as justices heard arguments in a lawsuit by the victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre against the manufacturer of the weapon used in the shooting, reports the Hartford Courant. Families of nine victims who were killed and a teacher who survived the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre filed the lawsuit in January 2015 seeking to hold Remington Outdoor Co. liable, arguing it marketed the AR-15 to the public even though it knew the weapon was designed for military use. Adam Lanza shot his way into the Newtown school and fired 154 bullets in about five minutes from a Bushmaster AR-15, killing 26 people, including the 20 first-graders.The lawsuit also named Camfour Holding LLP, the gun’s distributor, and Riverview Gun Sales Inc., the East Windsor gun shop where Nancy Lanza, Adam’s mother, bought the AR-15.

The issue has gained even more national attention since Sandy Hook. The case goes before the court just more than a week after the latest mass shooting where an assault rifle was used to kill 26 people inside a Texas church. Since the lawsuit was filed by the Sandy Hook victims there have been other mass shootings, including Sutherland Springs, Texas. In Las Vegas and Orlando, shooters used high-powered weapons to kill more people than Lanza did in Sandy Hook. A Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2016, agreeing with attorneys for Remington that the lawsuit “falls squarely within the broad immunity” provided to gun manufacturers and dealers by the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA. Legal experts said the case comes down to how the state Supreme Court will interpret two possible exceptions allowed under PLCAA — whether Remington can be held liable for so-called “negligent entrustment” or whether it violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.


Should TX Church Shooting Video Be Made Public?

Some people in Sutherland Springs, Tx., say no. Releasing such videos could affect the integrity of law enforcement investigations, re-traumatize families of victims and feed online voyeurs and conspiracy theorists. Others say keeping the videos out of public view masks the horror of mass shootings and allows politicians and the public to avoid confronting their bloody reality.

Should video of the Texas church massacre be released publicly? Some Texas residents and former law enforcement officials say no, the New York Times reports. “No one ever needs to see that,” said Charlene Uhl, whose 16-year-old daughter was among the 26 victims. Grisly videos and other images captured by live-streams, security cameras and cellphones are increasingly becoming part of a raw historical record of mass shootings, haunting pieces of evidence left behind along with bullet fragments and bloodstains. A quick web search yields hours of security camera footage taken during the Columbine High School rampage in 1999.

Releasing such videos could affect the integrity of law enforcement investigations, re-traumatize families of victims and feed online voyeurs and conspiracy theorists. Others argue that keeping the videos out of public view masks the true horror of mass shootings and allows politicians and the public to avoid confronting their bloody reality. Officials have kept videos from other mass shootings out of public view for years after the fact. The Rev. Stephen Curry, who helped preside over a vigil for the First Baptist Church victims on Sunday night, said people were too devastated to support the release of the video. State and federal law enforcement officials have not said whether they intend to release it. The video was seized as part of an investigation that is likely to last for months as officials unravel the criminal past of gunman Devin Kelley. Whether Texas officials release any video images may hinge on how they apply the state’s open records law. The law permits the release of crime scene imagery in some circumstances, law enforcement agencies are able to withhold information when it “deals with the detection, investigation or prosecution of crime” in a case that did not lead to a conviction.


FBI, Apple May Fight Again Over TX Shooter’s Phone

Experts at the FBI’s lab in Quantico, Va., are trying to determine if there are other methods, such as cloud storage or a linked laptop, that would provide access to Devin Kelley’s phone’s data. That process could take weeks. If the FBI and Apple had talked to each other in the first two days after the attack, it’s possible the device might already be open.

The FBI and Apple are bracing for another fight over encryption, this time because of the iPhone of the dead gunman in Sunday’s Texas church shooting, the Washington Post reports. The federal government and the company have shied away from confrontation since a 2016 standoff when the locked and encrypted iPhone of a terrorist in San Bernardino, Ca., led to a major court battle. The Justice Department tried to force Apple to unlock the dead man’s phone. The company refused, saying to do so would create a security weakness in the phones of all customers. That fight started a national debate about the competing interests of national security, law enforcement, personal privacy, and giant tech firms. The question of whether the government could force companies to provide access to phones and other electronic devices was never answered by the courts, because in the middle of the fight, the FBI found a private firm that could access the phone.

This week, the FBI said it had not been able to access the phone belonging to Devin Kelley, the Air Force veteran blamed for killing more than two dozen people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Tx. Officials did not say what type of phone Kelley had, but people familiar with the case said it was an iPhone. Experts at the FBI’s lab in Quantico, Va., are trying to determine if there are other methods, such as cloud storage or a linked laptop, that would provide access to the phone’s data. That process could take weeks. If the FBI and Apple had talked to each other in the first two days after the attack, it’s possible the device might already be open. That time frame may have been critical because Apple’s iPhone “Touch ID” — which uses a fingerprint to unlock the device — stops working after 48 hours.