'You Can't Feel Safe Anywhere,' Sutherland Springs Resident Says

Nov 8, 2017
Originally published on November 8, 2017 8:11 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. In Texas, authorities are learning more about the man who opened fire at a church on Sunday, killing 26 people and injuring 20 others. Devin Patrick Kelley had a history of domestic violence, and new documents show that he also escaped a mental health facility in 2012 after police say he threatened to kill his superiors in the Air Force. This news is not much solace for the people of Sutherland Springs, a town where people used to feel safe in their rural remoteness, as NPR's Nathan Rott reports.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Shirlee Filoteo is one of the 400 or so residents of Sutherland Springs. She's been here for about eight years and loves how close-knit the community is. Before, she worked in the sheriff's department in neighboring Bexar County, home to San Antonio and nearly 2 million people.

SHIRLEE FILOTEO: And I've seen practically everything, and you still don't get used to it.

ROTT: To tragedy, to horror, like the kind that occurred in a place that she never expected. Before Sunday, people here knew about mass shootings like the rest of us do. They've happened in cities like Orlando, Newtown, Las Vegas. Now, tiny Sutherland Springs is on that list too.

FILOTEO: That just tells you you can't be safe anywhere.

ROTT: That is a hard thing to hear, but it's being said by a lot of people in Sunderland Springs. Even the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation, Christopher Combs, said as much at a press briefing just down the road from the bullet-riddled church.

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CHRISTOPHER COMBS: So I've done a lot on active shooters through the years. You know, you look at the numbers. The numbers are on the rise. I think everybody, no matter where you are, needs to think about this. If you're in a school, if you're in a college, if you go to the movies, we should all be thinking about what are we going to do if a crisis breaks out right here?

ROTT: Combs says people need to think about the issue of active shooters. They need to prepare for what they do whether they're in a big city or a tiny town. Michael Rivera says he's learned as much. Growing up in Sutherland Springs, he says they'd run around, shoot BB guns and be kids.

MICHAEL RIVERA: There was no gangs, no drugs, no nothing, just wholesome fun. But stuff like this happens, and it just kind of makes you realize that just because it's a small town doesn't mean that it won't happen.

ROTT: And that, he says, is a sad thing to have to accept. Nathan Rott, NPR News, Sutherlands Springs, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.