The man who killed seven people in a shooting rampage in Odessa, Texas on Saturday had been fired from his job as a truck driver just hours earlier.
Seth Arron Ator, 36, shot victims indiscriminately during a two-hour rampage that began when police tried to pull him over for failing to make a turn signal.
Ator, who was shot and killed by police, used an AR-15-style rifle to carry out the attack. He shot and killed a postal worker before stealing her truck and shooting indiscriminately at people across a large area between the twin cities of Midland and Odessa. Police said it was unclear if he had obtained the rifle legally.
The people he killed ranged in age from 15 to 57. Twenty-two people were injured, including several police officers and a 17-month-old girl who received injuries to her mouth and chest.
A number of victims remain in critical condition and are being treated at several hospitals in the area. A spokesperson for the Medical Center Hospital said Sunday evening that 10 victims remained under its care, with one in critical condition and two in serious condition.
“There are no definite answers as to motive or reasons at this point, but we are fairly certain that the subject did act alone,” Chief Michael Gerke of the Odessa Police Department said during a press briefing, referring to initial reports of multiple shooters.
The Odessa Police Department refused to state the suspect’s name during a Sunday press conference as they did not want to give him any notoriety for what he did. They subsequently confirmed his name and age in a Facebook post.
Saturday’s incident is the fifth mass shooting in Texas in the last three years and comes just weeks after a gunman shot and killed 22 people in a Walmart in the border city of El Paso in an anti-Hispanic attack.
Republican Governor Greg Abbot said he was “heartbroken” and called for unspecified “solutions” to the problems of gun violence, but noted his desire to "safeguard Second Amendment rights.”
What happened on Saturday?
At 3.13 p.m., a state trooper tried to stop Ator for failing to signal a left turn on Interstate 2 between Midland and Odessa. But, before Ator brought his gold Honda to a complete stop, he fired out the rear window at the officer.
He took off and “proceeded on a shooting spree in the City of Odessa,” Odessa police said in a statement.
The suspect fired at multiple people and vehicles along 42nd Street in Odessa, one of the city’s main shopping districts. Ator then abandoned his vehicle, before shooting and killing Mary Granados, 29, a letter carrier, and stealing her truck.
The suspect finally drove to the Cinergy movie theater on Highway 191 where bystanders captured the moment he rammed the postal truck into police cars. Officers opened fire on the truck with Ator inside, killing the 36-year-old.
The mobile nature of the shooting caused widespread panic in the twin cities of Midland and Odessa.
Authorities warned drivers off the highways while businesses shut their doors and universities went on lockdown. A television station in Odessa evacuated its studio while its reporters were covering the breaking news live on the air.
“This is a different type of active shooter that we were involved with, because he was mobile, and that creates some very special type of issues,” Gerke said.
What do we know about the suspect?
Very little is known about Ator, who appears to have almost no online footprint.
Public records show he was originally from the small town of Lorena. Local TV station KXXV, citing “people who knew” him, said the 36-year-old graduated from Lorena High School in 2000.
He also took classes at McLennan Community College in Waco the fall of 2000, a school spokesperson told The Daily Beast.
A year later, he was arrested in August 2001 in McLennan County near Waco on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass and evading arrest, according to state records.
While the police have said the motive for the attack is still not clear, it was revealed Sunday that he had been fired from his job at a trucking company hours before he began his rampage.
Police searched his home in Cavalli Circle, 20 minutes west of Odessa, on Sunday. Images show what appears to be a shack with a homemade tower perched on top that neighbors said didn’t have running water or electricity.
One of his neighbors, Veronica Alonzo, told CNN that he had threatened her last month for leaving her garbage in a dumpster and said he used to sit on his roof at night and shoot animals.
Rocio Martinez, 29, described him as a “loner” who kept to himself and who sometimes frightened her because he was always firing guns outside.
“Although I feel bad about the situation, I feel at ease knowing that he was killed,” Martinez told the New York Times. “That tells me the threat has been removed, and my family is safe again.”
Cover: Yasmin Natera and Celeste Lujan are embraced after a vigil for victims of a shooting spree the day before, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin quad, in Odessa, Texas. (Jacy Lewis/Reporter-Telegram via AP)