Seven people were killed and 22 injured in a mass shooting in Odessa, Texas, on Saturday afternoon, Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke told reporters at a Sunday press conference, which included Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
Gerke confirmed the gunman used an AR-style weapon, but refused to say the shooter’s name during the press conference. “I’m not going to give him any notoriety for what he did,” he said, adding that the shooter’s name will be revealed at some point.
The Associated Press later identified the shooter as 36-year-old Seth Ator, citing two law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The victims range in age from 15 to 57, Gerke said, and a motive has not yet been determined. Gerke did not reveal if the shooter was from Odessa, but said he had an Ector County address and he had “some” criminal record.
Abbott also addressed the 9 new Texas laws that went into effect Sunday, which expand where guns can be carried and stored. He claimed that “some of these laws were enacted for the purpose of making our community safer.”
“We’ve been hammering out on a daily basis new additional solutions that we will be working to offer up, some by the Governor, some by the Executive branch, some by the legislature,” Abbott added. “But these will be new and different solutions that will work to deescalate gun violence in Texas.”
The death toll in Odessa rose from 5 to 7 on Sunday morning, and the number injured rose to 22. Police confirmed that the shooter, a white man in his mid-30s, was killed by officers at the Cinergy movie theater in Odessa.
Among the victims are a student at Ector County Independent School District, who was killed, and a 17-month-old girl, who was wounded and flown to Lubbock for treatment.
The shootings sent the two neighboring west Texas cities into chaos as police hunted for the gunman. Businesses and hospitals went into lockdown. The gunman apparently switched vehicles, hijacking a U.S. Postal Service mail van during his rampage. This caused police to initially report that there were two shooters roaming the area. They later clarified that there was only one gunman and that he is dead. The shooting took place the day before 9 Texas laws went into effect that loosen regulations on where guns can be carried and stored.
Here’s what we know so far.
What happened in Midland and Odessa?
Odessa Police Chief Mike Gerke said that the incident began when the suspect was pulled over for a traffic stop by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper about 3:15 p.m. Central Time. The suspect shot the trooper and fled in a gold-colored Honda.
The traffic stop happened on Interstate 20, the highway that connects Midland and Odessa. At least one other person was shot on I-20, police said.
DPS troopers had attempted to conduct a traffic stop on the shooter’s vehicle on I-20, but before the vehicle came to a complete stop, the male driver, who was the only person in the vehicle, pointed a gun toward the rear window of his car and fired several shots toward the patrol car.
Gerke said the gunman then shot multiple people on 42nd Street in Odessa.
At some point, the gunman hijacked a U.S. Postal Service van. Gerke said he believes the postal employee is among the victims.
Midland and Odessa (cities of about 140,000 and 100,000 people, respectively), are about 20 miles apart, connected by Interstate 20. They are about 240 miles east of El Paso, where a gunman targeting Hispanic victims killed 22 people at a Walmart on Aug. 3.
“This was a joint effort by a multitude of departments to find this animal and bring him to justice,” Gerke said at a later press conference.
Who is the mass shooter in Midland and Odessa?
Seth Ator, 36, was identified by the AP on Sunday, which reported that two law enforcement officials confirmed the identity under the condition of anonymity.
The El Paso branch of the FBI said that “it is too soon to know motive or the identity of the suspect.”
Police had initially said the shooter or shooters were believed to be shooting people from two separate vehicles — a hijacked U.S. Postal Service van and a small “gold/white” Toyota truck, according to the Midland Police Department. Police later said the two vehicles were driven by the same person.
Gerke said police have since received additional unverified reports about an active shooter, “which is to be expected because our citizens are a little jumpy after this,” but noted those reports were not confirmed. He added that “once this individual was taken out of the picture, there have been no more victims.”
Who are the victims?
Seven people were killed and 22 others were wounded in the shooting, Odessa police said Saturday and Sunday. Their ages range between 15-57.
Ector County Independent School District confirmed that a student in the district was killed in the shooting.
“We are heartbroken and outraged by the violence that struck our community and our school district today. We are learning that we have lost friends, family members, as well as one of our students. Our lives have been changed forever,” the district said in a statement.
Russell Tippin, CEO and president of the Medical Center Health System, confirmed that 13 victims were inside Medical Center Hospital.
Of those 13 patients, one person died and seven remain in critical condition. Most of those seven people had been in and out of surgery. Two other patients were in serious condition and one patient under the age of two was transferred to another hospital.
Two victims were treated and released.
The Odessa Regional Medical Center’s said the hospital had treated a total of six patients brought to their facilities. Two of those patients remain in critical condition and four have been discharged.
An online fundraiser started by a woman who said she knows the family of the baby who was wounded included a message from her mother that said: “She is being flown to Lubbock while we drive. Not getting to fly with her is beyond painful. Anderson is 17 months old, has shrapnel in her right chest, which thank God is superficial. She has a hole through her bottom lip and tongue and her front teeth were knocked out. She is alive.”
The GoFundMe set up for the family raised more than $105,000 in less than 12 hours.
At a Sunday press conference in Odessa, Governor Greg Abbott read aloud a text message from the mother. “Thank you all for praying. This is all of our worst nightmare, but thank god she’s alive and relatively well,” Abbott read. “Toddlers are funny because they can get shot but still want to run around and play.”
Tippin said the hospital had been receiving calls of support from across the country and urged people to pray for the victims. “Anybody that hears the sound of my voice, you need to grasp onto your loved ones and hold on to them and pray for this town,” Tippin said.
The suspect wounded police from three different agencies––officers from the Odessa Police Department and Midland Police Department, and a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper.
The trooper is in serious but stable condition and the two other officers are in stable condition at a local hospital, the Texas Department of Public Safety said Saturday night.
According to a GoFundMe account set up by a family member, Midland Police Department Officer Zack Owens was also shot.
How did people respond to the mass shooting?
Multiple businesses, offices and dorms at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin were put on lockdown during the shooting, according to local news station CBS 7. Music City Mall in Odessa, Texas was closed during the shooting, with CBS 7 reporting a chaotic scene as police worked to clear the area.
About 5:30 p.m., anchors at CBS 7 in Odessa were told “we’ve gotta go” and left a live shot following reports of people running through the Music City Mall, where the TV news studios are located. The anchors left the live shot, but continued to broadcast off-screen. They later returned on air, but were told once again that they had to evacuate after multiple officers enter the studio. CBS 7 reported officers were going store-to-store in the mall, clearing the building.
Midland Police Department had initially reported that a Home Depot store had been the site of one of the shootings, although the company said in a statement to TIME that none of its stores had been the site of a shooting.
How Trump Is Responding to the Shooting
President Trump spoke to reporters in front of the White House on Sunday and said the shooting in Odessa “really doesn’t change anything,” in regards to gun control legislation being considered in the House and Senate, including expansion of background checks.
“We’re doing a package and we’ll see how it all — how it comes about,” he said. “Right now, a lot of people are talking about it and that’s irrespective of what happened yesterday in Texas.”
Trump went on to describe mass shootings as a mental health problem. “I will say that for the most part, sadly, if you look at the last four or five going back even five or six or seven years, for the most part, as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it. So it’s a big problem, it’s a mental problem. It’s a big problem.”
The President offered additional comments later in the day, saying at the beginning of a Hurricane Dorian briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington that he is committed to working with Congress to “stop the menace of mass attacks.” He further stated, per the Associated Press, that any measures would need to protect public safety while not impeding on the constitutional right to gun ownership.
How are politicians responding?
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement that he and the First Lady were “heartbroken over this senseless and cowardly attack.” He thanked first responders for their quick action.
“I want to remind all Texans that we will not allow the Lone Star State to be overrun by hatred and violence,” Abbott said. “We will unite, as Texans always do, to respond to this tragedy.”
President Donald Trump said on Twitter that Attorney General William Barr had briefed him on the shooting, and that the FBI and law enforcement are “fully engaged.”
Attorney General for Texas, Ken Paxton, said in a statement that he was “horrified to see such a senseless act terrorize the fine people of the Permian basin” and thanked first responders for their response.
Former Texas congressman and 2020 Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, whose hometown of El Paso was devastated by the Aug. 3 mass shooting, spoke out about gun control measures from the campaign trail in Virginia.
“We don’t know how many have been shot. We don’t know how many people have been killed, the condition of those who have survived. Do not yet know what the motivation is, do not yet know the firearms that were used or how they acquired them. We do know this is f—-d up,” O’Rourke said.
“We do know this has to stop in this county. There is no reason that we have to accept this as our fortune, as our future, as our fate.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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