West Texas gunman was reportedly fired hours before shooting began

A man who was pulled over by Texas troopers shot at them with a rifle and sped away, setting off a terrifying rampage that ended with seven victims and the shooter dead, police said. Photo by Tim Fischer/Midland Reporter-Telegram/AP.

ODESSA, Texas — The Odessa Police Department on Sunday identified the man who killed seven people and wounded 22 others in a shooting spree in West Texas as Seth Ator, 36.

Ator had been fired from his trucking job just hours before his killing rampage, the New York Times reported, citing interviews with officials.

Ator was arrested in 2001 for criminal trespass and evading arrest, both misdemeanors, according to public records. Adjudication was deferred, though the details of the case were not immediately available. His record also includes a 2018 traffic citation for a federal motor carrier safety violation, according to Ector County court records.

Ator was pulled over by Texas troopers in Midland on Saturday afternoon for failing to use his signal, police said. He then shot at them with what police described as an AR-type weapon and sped away. Driving on streets and the highway, he sprayed bullets randomly at residents and motorists, police said.

The man then hijacked a postal truck and ditched his gold Honda, shooting at people as he made his way into Odessa about 20 miles away. There, police confronted him in a movie theater parking lot and killed him in a shootout.

Among the wounded were a 17-month-old girl and three law enforcement officers, hospital and police officials said. Those fatally shot were between 15 and 57 years old, Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke said.

Investigators are looking for a motive

It’s unclear what his motive was. Authorities say they believe the shooter acted alone.

The attack during the busy Labor Day weekend put people on edge in a state where a gunman killed 22 less than a month ago at a Walmart in El Paso, about 285 miles west of Odessa.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs said his agency responds to Texas frequently. He said the FBI is “here now almost every other week supporting our local and state partners on active shooters. We’re almost every two weeks an active shooter in this country.”

15 crime scenes

Investigators have 15 different crime scenes and numerous cars to process to determine what exactly happened, Combs told CNN.

The FBI searched a rural property in West Odessa believed to be connected to the shooter, according to a law enforcement official. Agents also will be “interviewing anyone that had any contact with this individual,” Combs said.

A LinkedIn account under Ator’s name said he was a truck driver. A Facebook page under his name contained only one publicly visible photo of Ator posted in 2012, and the account has since been removed.

Veronica Alonzo, a neighbor of Ator, told CNN that he approached her last month while holding a rifle and yelled at her for leaving trash in a nearby dumpster.

Alonzo also said Ator frequently fired from a structure on top of his house at night, shooting into his yard and then would retrieve dead animals from it.

Seven dead

Police have not named most of the victims. One of them was Mary Granados, 29, who was working as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, according to her twin sister, Rosie, and a spokeswoman for the USPS Inspection Service.

Granados was at the end of her shift when she was shot and killed, her sister said, adding she was on the phone with Granados when she heard her scream. “It was very painful. I just wanted to help her and I couldn’t. I thought she had got bitten by a dog or something. I tried calling her name and she wouldn’t answer,” she said.

The Ector County school district in Odessa said one of its students was among those killed.

The wounded 17-month-old was airlifted to University Medical Center in Lubbock, where she was in satisfactory condition, hospital officials said. The girl’s family said Sunday she is expected to make a full recovery. “We hurt so badly for the families whose loved ones didn’t survive this tragedy,” her parents, Kelby and Garret Davis, said in a joint statement.

One wounded law enforcement officer is a trooper from the Department of Public Safety and the other two are from the Midland and Odessa police departments. The trooper is in serious condition and the officers are in stable condition.

“At this point I can tell you we do not believe — we do not believe — there’s any connection to any domestic or international terrorism,” the FBI’s Combs said.

A witness describes shootout with officers

Alex Woods said he drove up to the movie theater about five minutes before the shootout and saw several police vehicles with flashing lights. “There was just police everywhere and there was a bunch of people behind the theater in the field walking and next thing you know this gunfire is going off,” he said. “I hear a pop, so, I flip the camera to where the theater’s at and I just see a bunch of gunfire going off.”

Woods said he saw the officer walk up to the mail van and fire into it, describing the incident as surreal. “I believe that is when the shooter was killed,” he added. “It just all happened so quickly.”

Mike Barrett said his friend was shot and hospitalized with injuries. “He was on the way home, him and his wife (and) he got shot,” Barrett said. “It went through the door of the car and shot him right in his side. … His wife was just covered in blood.”

New Texas gun laws to go into effect Sunday

The shooting happened hours before a series of firearm laws went into effect in Texas, where four of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history have happened.

The new measures will loosen gun restrictions and allow weapons on school grounds, apartments and places of worship. After the shooting Saturday, Democratic presidential candidates issued statements calling for gun reform.

“Our hearts are with Midland, Odessa, and everyone in West Texas who has to endure this again. … We need to end this epidemic,” Texas native Beto O’Rourke tweeted.

Julián Castro, another Democratic presidential candidate, said the shootings will continue if no action is taken. “We have to be more honest with ourselves. This is going to happen again. And again,” he tweeted.

Vice President Mike Pence said he and President Donald Trump are determined to work with Congress “to address and confront this scourge of mass atrocity in our country.”

Sunday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott commented on the frequency of high-profile shootings in his state since he took office. “I have been to too many of these events,” Abbott said.

Abbott named several similar incidents: the Dallas shootings that killed police officers, then Sutherland Springs, then Santa Fe High School, then El Paso and now Odessa/Midland. “I am heartbroken by the crying of the people in the state of Texas. I am tired of the dying of the people of Texas. Too many Texans are in mourning. Too many Texans have lost their lives. The status quo in Texas is unacceptable, and action is needed,” Abbott said.

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