8 Killed In West Texas Mass Shooting; Gunman Identified

ODESSA, TEXAS — The death toll has risen to eight in a terrifying killing spree in west Texas, Saturday, including the gunmen, identified by two law enforcement officials as 36-year-old Seth Ator. Twenty-two others were injured, the youngest a 17-month-old girl, and included three law enforcement officers.

Those killed Saturday ranged in age from 15 to 57, but FBI special agent Christopher Combs did not provide a list of their names at a nationally televised news conference Sunday.

Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke did not identify Ator during the news conference, saying he didn’t want to give the shooter notoriety. But two police officers who spoke to The Associated Press identified Ator as the man who used an AR-style weapon in the ramage that started with a traffic stop in the heart of Texas oil country.

Authorities said Sunday they couldn’t explain why the gunman opened fire on the troopers, then hijacked a mail carrier truck and fired at random people as he drove in the area of Odessa and Midland, about 300 miles west of Dallas.

Authorities said the gunman in Saturday’s mass shooting had no known ties to domestic or international terrorism groups. FBI special agent Christopher Combs said authorities were worried the gunman would open fire at a movie theater in Odessa if police had not shot and killed him.

“In the midst of a man driving down the highway shooting at people, local law enforcement and state troopers pursued him and stopped him from possibly going into a crowded movie theater and having another event of mass violence,” Combs said.

Saturday’s mass shooting came at the end of a particularly deadly month in Texas, which opened with 22 people killed at a Walmart store in an Aug. 3 mass shooting in El Paso. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, speaking at the news conference, said nearly 70 people have died in mass shootings in his state since 2016.

“I have been to too many of these events,” Abbott said. “Too many Texans are in mourning. Too many Texans have lost their lives. The status quo in Texas is unacceptable, and action is needed.”

The rampage started around 3:25 p.m. Saturday when a Texas Highway Patrol trooper pulled over the gunman on Interstate 20 between Midland and Odessa for failing to signal. Instead of complying with the traffic stop, the man opened fire with a rifle on the trooper, hitting him.

He then fled westbound on the interstate, said Odessa police. He shot at a civilian while still on I-20 and then proceeded to continue his shooting spree as he drove into the city of Odessa, where he began firing at people on the streets, police said.

“The suspect continued shooting at innocent civilians all over Odessa before making his way to Cinergy (a movie theater) on Highway 191,” said Odessa police in a statement on the incident. “The suspect then shot an Odessa police department officer, along with a Midland police department officer. Law enforcement officers returned fire, killing the suspect.”

Among those killed was a student in the Ector County school district in Odessa. Officials did not give the student’s age or name.

The three law enforcement officers who were shot are the Texas state trooper, an Odessa police officer and a Midland police officer. The trooper is reportedly in serious condition, but the other two officers are in stable condition.

The 17-month-old girl was airlifted to a hospital and she is satisfactory condition, according to CNN.

Twenty-five mass shootings this year have left 142 people dead, surpassing the 140 people killed in the same number of mass shootings in all of 2018, according to The Associated Press/USA Today/Northeastern University database. Incidents in which four or more people, not including the offender, are killed are included in the database.

Speaking to reporters Sunday, President Trump repeated recent calls for greater attention to mental health. He said stronger background checks, which he backed after the El Paso mass shootings, would not have stopped the mass killings. Mental health professionals say that Trump’s thinking is outdated, that linking mental illness to violence is wrong, and that while providing more mental health treatment would be helpful overall, it would have only a minor impact on gun violence.

Abbott, the Texas governor, was noncommittal Sunday about imposing new gun laws in Texas, though Democrats and gun-control groups are demanding more restrictions. In fact, a number of looser gun laws took effect Sunday, including one that would arm more teachers in Texas schools.

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The Associated Press contributed reporting.

Original Patch report: Texas Shooting, Odessa And Midland: 5 Dead, At Least 20 Injured