Midland–Odessa shooting

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Midland–Odessa shooting
Odessa-Midland Shooting Vehicle.png
Odessa truck windshield damaged in the shooting
Midland–Odessa is located in Texas
Midland–Odessa
Midland–Odessa
Midland–Odessa (Texas)
Midland–Odessa is located in the United States
Midland–Odessa
Midland–Odessa
Midland–Odessa (the United States)
LocationMidland/Odessa, Texas, U.S.
DateAugust 31, 2019
3:17 p.m. (CDT UTC−05:00)
Attack type
Spree shooting
Drive-by shooting
WeaponsSemi-automatic rifle
Deaths8 (including the perpetrator)
Injuries
25
PerpetratorSeth Aaron Ator

A spree shooting occurred in the West Texas cities of Midland and Odessa on August 31, 2019, when multiple people were shot from a vehicle.[1] Eight people were killed including the perpetrator, and 25 people were injured including three police officers. It was the third mass killing to take place in the United States in August 2019, along with the El Paso Walmart shooting and the Dayton shooting.

Authorities identified the shooter as 36-year-old Seth Aaron Ator from Lorena, Texas,[2] who police shot and killed outside a movie theater.[3][4][5]

Incident[edit]

The shooting spree began at 3:17 p.m.[1] during a traffic stop on Interstate 20, where a Texas state trooper was shot while attempting to stop a Honda[6] over a failure to signal a left turn.[7] The suspect continued into Odessa, Texas, and shot another person on the Interstate.[8] In Odessa, he abandoned the Honda, hijacked a United States Postal Service truck, killed the letter carrier,[2] and continued to drive and shoot people before police cornered and killed him in the parking lot of a Cinergy movie theater.[6]

There was initial confusion over where the perpetrator was and how many individuals were involved. The confusion is apparent over the police scanner where one officer states about twenty minutes after the first officer was shot; "We're getting multiple calls for different victims in different locations. I've got people talking on four different channels, I'm not clear on anything, you're all talking."[9]

Victims[edit]

The shooter killed seven people, ranging in age from 15 to 57.[10][11] Seventeen more were hospitalized for injuries.[12] Among the injured are three police: a Texas state trooper, a Midland police officer, and an Odessa police officer. The youngest victim is a wounded 17-month-old child.[8] One of the dead was a USPS postal worker, age 29, who had been driving the postal service truck Ator hijacked.[13]

Perpetrator[edit]

The day after the shooting, police identified the shooter as 36-year-old Seth Aaron Ator of Lorena, Texas. Officials initially refused to identify Ator as they did not want to give him any notoriety.[14] He grew up in Lorena, and attended McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas.[15][16] He was arrested in Waco in 2001 for trespassing and evading arrest for trying to break into a woman's bedroom after threatening to kill her brother, to which he pleaded guilty in 2002.[17][18]

Ator lived in West Odessa in Ector County in "a metal shack that lacked electricity, plumbing, a floor and even furniture"; he lived alone, except for a small dog.[19] A neighbor said that well before his killing spree he had yelled at her while carrying a big rifle. She also said he sometimes shot animals from his roof, about which she had complained to police, but they never responded to her complaint.[16] Another neighbor told the Associated Press that her family had lived near Ator for the past five months and were afraid of him, due to his nighttime rabbit shooting and banging on their door early one morning.[20]

In January 2014, Ator failed a national criminal background check when he tried to purchase a gun; the system flagged him as ineligible because of a prior local court determination that he was mentally unfit.[21] According to law enforcement officials, Ator subsequently bought the gun used in the shooting via a private sale, without having to go through a background check.[22][23]

Investigation[edit]

On September 1, the FBI said it was executing a search warrant at the suspect's house, located about 20 minutes west of Odessa.[15] On September 2, at a press conference, FBI agent Christopher Combs said that the perpetrator turned up for work "enraged".[24][25] Ator was fired from his job at Journey Oilfield Services hours before the shooting. Fifteen minutes before his encounter with troopers, Ator phoned a national tip line. Agent Combs described the call as "rambling statements about some of the atrocities that he felt that he had gone through", adding "He did not make a threat during that phone call". FBI agents attempted to identify and locate the caller, but were unable to do so in the fifteen minutes before the shooting began.[26] Police said Ator used an AR-15 type rifle in the shooting, but did not say where he obtained it.[27]

On September 4, The Wall Street Journal and news station KCBD reported that the FBI and law enforcement in Lubbock served a search warrant to a person of interest, suspected of illegally manufacturing and selling the rifle in connection with the shooting.[28]

Aftermath[edit]

The University of Texas of the Permian Basin was placed on lockdown due to its proximity to the shooting.[29]

Multiple politicians issued statements about the shooting, including Donald Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Texas Representative Mike Conaway, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.[8][30][31][5] Democrats generally urged more gun restriction laws, while Republicans offered thoughts and prayers, called for cultural changes, and pointed out mental illness issues.[31]

Texas State Representative Matt Schaefer, a Republican from Tyler, rejected calls for tighter gun restrictions, which he described as violating "God-given" gun rights; instead, Schaefer advocated a "YES to God" and a "YES to praying for protection".[32][33][34] Schaefer's comments received national attention.[35][36]

On September 4, Democrats in the Texas House held five press conferences in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and El Paso. Sixty-one members of the House Democratic Caucus signed a letter delivered to Governor Abbott asking him to call an emergency special session “on protecting Texans from gun violence.” Urging him to address the gun violence epidemic. In a statement, Abbott spokesman John Wittman said “Governor Abbott made clear in Odessa that all strategies are on the table that will lead to laws that make Texans safer. But that doesn’t include a helter skelter approach that hastily calls for perfunctory votes that divide legislators along party lines. Instead, the Governor seeks consensus rather than division, The Democrats who are part of today’s partisan pitch can be part of the bi-partisan legislative process announced yesterday that is geared toward achieving real solutions, or they can be part of politics as usual that will accomplish nothing. Legislating on tough issues is hard and takes time. If Democrats really want to change the law, they need to stop talking to cameras and start talking to colleagues in the Capitol to reach consensus.” In response, Donna Howard of the Texas House of Representatives, at a press conference in Austin said:"You know who can build a consensus is the Governor. If the Governor speaks up and says he will get behind certain legislation, we will have a consensus..."[37]

Also on September 4, during a visit with Midland and Odessa city and law enforcement leaders to talk about ways to prevent mass shootings, Texas Senator Ted Cruz spoke with a local news station saying: “Much of my discussions with law enforcer [sic] today was what were the warning signs that we had that this individual had a serious mental illness that posed a danger to himself or to others,” Cruz said. “What could we have done better to stop this deranged criminal from getting a gun in the first place? And that’s going to be an ongoing discussion.”[38]

On September 5, Abbott issued eight executive orders in response to the El Paso and Odessa-Midland mass shootings, in a statement Abbott said: “Texas must achieve several objectives to better protect our communities and our residents from mass shootings, I will continue to work expeditiously with the legislature on laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, while safeguarding the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Texans.”[39]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Dennis Romero; Andrew Blankstein; Tom Winter (August 31, 2019). "5 dead, 21 injured after motorist opens fire in Odessa, Texas". NBC News. Retrieved August 31, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Holt, Lucinda; Fernandez, Manny (September 1, 2019). "Shooting Spree Across 15 Miles in West Texas Terrorized Two Towns and Killed 7". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Caroline Linton (August 31, 2019). "Active shooter dead after killing 5 in West Texas shootings, police say". CBS News. Retrieved September 2, 2019.
  4. ^ Fernandez, Manny; Vigdor, Neil (August 31, 2019). "At Least 5 Dead and 21 Injured in Shootings in Midland, Tex". The New York Times. Retrieved August 31, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Vera, Amir (September 1, 2019). "Live updates: Shooter targets people at shopping centers in West Texas". CNN. Retrieved September 2, 2019.
  6. ^ a b Smith, LaVendrick; Corchado, Alfredo (August 31, 2019). "5 dead, several wounded after gunman targets random victims in Midland-Odessa area, police say". Dallas News. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  7. ^ Paul J. Weber (August 31, 2019). "At least 5 dead in Texas shooting rampage after traffic stop". Associated Press. Retrieved August 31, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Leon, Melissa (August 31, 2019). "At least 21 shot, 5 killed in West Texas rampage, official says; suspect dead". Fox News. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  9. ^ Cava, Marco della; Frank, BrieAnna J. "A lone gunman fleeing Texas police stalked and shot people over a frenzied hour. Scanner traffic reveals the chaos". USA TODAY. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
  10. ^ "Latest Updates: Neighbor says gunman was "violent, aggressive"". Your Basin. September 2, 2019. Retrieved September 2, 2019.
  11. ^ "The Latest: 7 killed in Texas range in age from 15 to 57". Odessa American. Associated Press. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  12. ^ "Victims from weekend shootings identified". KMID. September 2, 2019. Retrieved September 2, 2019.
  13. ^ "A US mail carrier nearing the end of her shift was among those killed in West Texas shooting". CNN. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  14. ^ Digital, KCBD (September 1, 2019). "City officials reveal name of Midland/Odessa shooting suspect". KCBD 11. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  15. ^ a b "Seth Ator Identified as Odessa Gunman". Daily Beast. September 1, 2019. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  16. ^ a b "7 killed in West Texas shooting: Live updates". CNN. September 1, 2019.
  17. ^ Vandell, Perry. "Texas shooter who killed 7 in Odessa, Midland identified". USA Today. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  18. ^ Bleiberg, Jake (September 11, 2019). "Newly obtained records detail Odessa gunman's previous run-ins with police". Midland Reporter-Telegram. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  19. ^ John MacCormack (September 3, 2019). "Odessa gunman lived in a dirt-floor shack, a small dog his only companion". San Antonio Express-News.
  20. ^ "The Latest: Neighbor says gunman was "violent, aggressive"". Midland Reporter-Telegram. September 3, 2019. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  21. ^ "Texas Shooter Had Been Banned From Buying Firearms Because Mentally Unfit". Wall Street Journal. September 3, 2019. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  22. ^ "Texas gunman purchased weapon in private sale, which doesn't require background check". NBC News. September 3, 2019. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  23. ^ Theresa Waldrop (September 3, 2019). "West Texas shooter bought gun in private sale". CNN.
  24. ^ "The Latest: FBI: Gunman troubled before job woes, shooting". Odessa American. Retrieved September 2, 2019.
  25. ^ "Texas shooting: Gunman had just been fired, police say". BBC News. September 3, 2019. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  26. ^ Aubrey, Allison (September 2, 2019). "Texas Gunman Who Killed 7 Had Been Fired Just Hours Before Shootings". NPR. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  27. ^ "Mass shooting in Texas leaves at least 7 dead, 24 wounded in Odessa and Midland". CBS News. September 1, 2019. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  28. ^ "FBI serves search warrant, apparently in connection with Midland/Odessa shootings". kcbd.com. KCBD. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  29. ^ Slater, Georgia. "At Least 5 Dead, 21 Injured in West Texas Shootings: Police". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  30. ^ "Officials release statements on Odessa shooting". www.cbs7.com. Retrieved August 31, 2019.
  31. ^ a b van Wagtendonk, Anya (September 1, 2019). "Politicians call for culture shifts and new laws after another mass shooting. Neither seem likely". Vox. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  32. ^ Kate Sullivan (September 1, 2019). "Texas state lawmaker calls for 'praying for protection' instead of gun reform in wake of mass shooting". CNN. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  33. ^ "Texas politician rejects gun control, urges 'praying for protection' hours after mass shooting". SBS World News. September 1, 2019. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  34. ^ Fearnow, Benjamin (September 1, 2019). "Texas Republican touts God, prayer in rant against gun control advocacy calls to 'do something'". Newsweek. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  35. ^ Erin Mansfield. "Tyler Rep. Matt Schaefer's gun comments provoke national rebuttal and support". Tyler Morning Telegraph.
  36. ^ Moritz, John (September 1, 2019). "Odessa shooting: Texas lawmaker's defiant defense of gun rights sparks sharp debate". USA Today. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  37. ^ Rapaport, Wes (September 4, 2019). "Texas House Democrats turn up the heat on Gov. Abbott to call special session on gun reform". KXAN.com. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  38. ^ Battis, Shane. "Ted Cruz meets with city and law enforcement leaders, talks gun policy in wake of shooting". www.cbs7.com. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  39. ^ Pollock, Cassandra (September 5, 2019). "Gov. Greg Abbott issues 8 executive orders aimed at stopping potential mass shooters". The Texas Tribune. The Texas Tribune. Retrieved September 5, 2019.