A traffic stop in Odessa, TX on Saturday, August 31, turned into the second shooting in the state in the last month, when a man shot at the state trooper who pulled him over before speeding away. The gunman then shot at numerous people using an AR-15-style rifle while driving in the cities of Odessa and Midland, located 20 miles apart, killing eight people (including the shooter) and injuring more than 20 others, The New York Times reports.
The seven victims ranged from 15 years old to 57, officials said, but they have not yet confirmed identities. Those known include Edward Peregrino, 25, who ran into the yard of his parents' Odessa home after hearing gunshots; Leilah Hernandez, 15, who was shot while walking out of a car dealership with her brother; Joseph Griffith, 40, who was killed while sitting in his car with his wife and children at a traffic light; and Mary Granados, 29, a letter carrier whose vehicle the gunman hijacked.
Ten people injured in the rampage still remain hospitalized as of Sunday evening, a spokesman for the Medical Center Health System in Odessa said, with one in critical condition. Among those injured were three law enforcement officers and a 17-month-old identified as Anderson Davis, who was shot in the face. "For now it’s pretty bad...it doesn’t seem like her jaw was hit, just lip, teeth and tongue," her mother said in a message to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Odessa police reported that the shooting began on Saturday afternoon around 3:26 p.m. CT when a state trooper pulled the gunman over. Before coming to a complete stop, the gunman pulled out a rifle and began firing at the officers through the rear window of the car, reports The Texas Tribune. Police pulled him over for not signaling while making a left turn, according to The Washington Post. The suspect shot at the state trooper, fled the scene, and then proceeded to go on what police reports describe as a “shooting spree in the city of Odessa” before stealing a postal truck and finally being shot and killed by police.
Original reports suggested that there were multiple shooters; however, it was later confirmed to be one man. Police initially declined to name the suspect. "I am not going to give him any notoriety," said Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke. The suspect was later identified as Seth A. Ator, of Odessa, according to the NY Times. Officials said the suspect had been fired from his job at a trucking company on Saturday, but that a motive has not yet been established.
"There are no definite answers as to motive or reasons at this point, but we are fairly certain that the subject did act alone," Gerke said, according to the Times.
Abbott said he was "heartbroken" over the attack in a statement. “I want to remind all Texans that we will not allow the Lone State State to be overrun by hatred and violence. We will unite, as Texans always do, to respond to this tragedy,” he said.
The shooting has reignited the gun control debate. It happened just one month after the tragic mass shooting in El Paso, TX that left 22 people dead and one day before Texas is set to implement policy making it easier to carry handguns into churches and schools.
“We’re not nearly past El Paso and then here it happens again,” said Kel Seliger, a Republican state senator, before adding that these shootings force people to think not “Is this going to happen again? But when it’s going to happen again.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted his support on behalf of himself and his wife.
Heidi and I are heartbroken by this heinous attack, and we are lifting up in prayer all the victims, their families, and the entire Midland-Odessa community.— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) September 1, 2019
Fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn tweeted thanking first responders and law enforcement for their tireless efforts.
Tonight we are one with the entire Midland-Odessa community, especially the victims of this horrific tragedy. I want to thank law enforcement and first responders for their courage in an impossible situation.— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) September 1, 2019
President Donald Trump tweeted support of law enforcement, the first responders and Governor Abbott. "A very tough and sad situation!" he wrote. He said on Sunday that the shooting "hasn’t changed anything" when it comes to background checks, and that it wouldn't have stopped Saturday's shooting. "Over the last five, six, or seven years, no matter how strong you need the background checks, it wouldn’t have stopped any of it," he claimed.
Vice President Mike Pence said that Trump and his administration “remain absolutely determined” to work with Congress “so we can address and confront the scourge of mass atrocities in our country.”
John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety said in a statement, “While we don’t know all the facts, we do know one thing for sure: This isn’t normal. Laws will not prevent all mass shootings, but they are a critical piece of reducing the scourge of gun violence gripping our country. The House has done its part to reduce gun violence — now the Senate must act.”
This is a breaking news story. It has been updated throughout.