A traffic stop triggered a deadly shooting rampage. Warning: Some viewers may find this video disturbing.
ODESSA, Texas – The death toll rose to seven Sunday after a gunman’s rampage that left many more injured following what began as a routine traffic stop Saturday in this West Texas city.
Police Chief Michael Gerke, at a news conference Sunday, said the victims ranged in age from 15 to 57. The 22 wounded at 15 crime scenes included three police officers and a 17-month old child, he said.
Gerke said a motive for the carnage was still being investigated. He declined at the time to reveal the identity of the gunman, who Gerke said was armed with an “AR-type” weapon when he was killed in a shootout with police. “I am not going to give him any notoriety for what he did,” an emotional Gerke said. “We will provide that information to you, but not on this public stage.”
Odessa Police later identified the gunman in a Facebook post as Seth Aaron Ator, 36, of Odessa.
Gerke said the shooter apparently acted alone, and authorities said there appeared to be no connection to terrorism.
The assault took place one day before a series, of gun law changes in the state that ease restrictions on where Texans can carry or store firearms, from foster homes to churches. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Sunday that solutions are needed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals while securing second amendment rights.
“I have been to too many of these events,” Abbott said. “I am heartbroken by the crying of the people of state of Texas. I am tired of the dying.”
The governor read a statement from the parents of the 17-month-old child thanking everyone for their prayers. They said their daughter will have surgery Monday to remove shrapnel from her chest and fix her lip.
He mouth, the statement said, was “pretty bad but will heal and can be fixed.”
“Toddlers are funny because they can get shot but still want to run around and play,” the statement said.
The shooting began Saturday afternoon when a state trooper pulled over the suspect, described by authorities as a white male in his mid-30s and driving a gold-colored car, for a traffic violation on Interstate 20 between Midland and Odessa.
He opened fire on the trooper before fleeing westbound on the interstate, shooting his way to Odessa, stealing a mail truck and continuing his assault, police said.
The suspect then shot one Odessa officer and one Midland Police Department officer before authorities returned fire and killed the suspect near a Cinergy movie theater in Odessa.
Daniel Munoz, 28, came in the shooter’s path as he yielded to a car getting off Interstate 20. After seeing the barrel of a rifle, Munoz said he got down before the suspect fired three shots at him. Instead of meeting a friend for a drink, he went to a hospital because glass pierced his shoulder.
“I’m just trying to turn the corner and I got shot — I’m getting shot at?” Munoz said. “What’s the world coming to? For real? I’m just over here minding my own business, getting my own gas.”
Dramatic eyewitness video appears to show parts of the shootout. The eyewitness video, taken by Alex Woods, appears to show the scene outside the theater from across a field.
“There’s a shooting going on in Odessa,” a man in the bed of a pickup truck says before gunshots are heard. “Oh god, they’re shooting right there,” he says as he turns the camera toward the building.
More shots are heard, and the man tells people near him to get down. More police cars arrive, and the man says “He’s shooting them. Oh, he killed him.” But it was not clear who was shooting.
Police initially said five people were confirmed dead and 21 injured, but later updated the death total to seven.
The shooter killed mail carrier Mary Granados, 29, while hijacking her delivery van, according to a statement from the U.S. Postal Service. Army veteran Kameron Brown was also gunned down in the rampage, his employer Standard Safety & Supply said in a statement.
Rodolfo “Rudy” Arco, 57, died instantly after a bullet pierced his truck’s window, his sister Maria Arco told The Arizona Republic. The entrepreneur had moved to Odessa after the Las Vegas shooting, hoping it would be safer, Arco said.
“We need to take care of whatever is ailing our families in our society,” she said. “I don’t think it’s guns, I think it goes deeper than that. It’s not about one physical thing — I think it goes to the emotional.”
The Ector County Independent School District also lamented the loss of one of its students.
“We are heartbroken and outraged by the violence that struck our community and our school district today,” the district said in a statement. “We are learning that we have lost friends, family members, as well as one of our students. Our lives have been changed forever.”
In addition to Leilah Hernandez, 15, others killed include Joseph Griffith, 40, and Edwin Peregrino, 25, according to family members interviewed by The Washington Post.
Besides the initial trooper, two other troopers were wounded, the Texas Department of Safety said. The tragedy became the latest mass shooting after others this summer in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Gilroy, California.
Abbott, who traveled to the area on Sunday, ordered Texas flags across the state to be lowered to half-staff in honor of the victims.
“I thank the first responders who have acted swiftly and admirably under pressure, Abbott said. “And I want to remind all Texans that we will not allow the Lone Star State to be overrun by hatred and violence.”
Contributing: Ryan W. Miller, Olivia Sanchez and Kristin Lam, USA TODAY; Perry Vandell and Molly Duerig, The Arizona Republic; The Associated Press
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