gun violence

Everything We Know About the Drive-By Mass Shooting in Odessa

A pickup truck that the gunman fired on during his shooting spree sits on the side of Interstate 20 with bullet holes in the passenger-side window. Photo: Ernest Villanueva/Twitter

At least eight people, including a gunman, were killed and nearly two dozen more injured in a mass shooting on Saturday in west Texas that began with a traffic stop in Midland and turned into a horrifying drive-by rampage along the highways and streets of nearby Odessa — where the gunman was finally cornered and killed by police. One of the victims killed in the attack was a 15-year-old girl.

It was the second mass shooting in Texas in less than a month, following the massacre at an El Paso Walmart on August 3.

Below is a repeatedly updated post covering everything we know so far.

The Attack

According to Midland and Odessa authorities, the gun violence nightmare began around 5:15 p.m. on Saturday when two Department of Public Safety troopers stopped a gold sedan for failing to signal a turn on Interstate 20 in Midland. The driver, later identified by law-enforcement officials as 36-year-old Seth Ator, pointed an AR-style assault rifle at the DPS officers through his rear window and opened fire without stopping the vehicle. One trooper was shot. The gunman then fled west to Odessa, about 20 miles away, shooting at other cars as he did. He shot another person where I-20 meets Loop 338 on the eastern edge of the city, then continued his drive-by mass shooting through the city, firing indiscriminately at cars, shoppers, and pedestrians as he drove. The city was was placed on lockdown and police worked to clear the roads.

An Odessa woman, in a devastating interview with CBS-7, sobbed as she described hearing loud pops while rolling away from an intersection on 338 near I-20, then noticed the shooter and the “very large gun” he was pointing at her. She drove away aggressively, hearing shots behind her, and said that the gunman followed and tried to drive up alongside her. She said she thought, from the look on the man’s face, that he was not behaving “methodically,” but randomly trying to hurt people. She wept as she entertained the thought that the gunman likely targeted others after not being able to shoot her.

One witness was in his truck at the Starbucks on Odessa’s East 42nd Street when he heard a volley of gunfire, then ducked down and tried to shield his newborn daughter in the back seat. He told the Washington Post that when he climbed out of his truck after the shots stopped, he saw at least three cars that had been struck with bullets. Inside one car in a nearby intersection, a 17-month-old girl had been shot in the face through her bottom lip, knocking out her teeth. He said the girl’s mother held the still-conscious baby while a nearby off-duty paramedic tried to stop the bleeding. Paramedics arrived within minutes and rushed them away. (She survived, according to a GoFundMe page raising money for her family.)

A worker at the adjacent Twin Peaks restaurant was also shaken after seeing the blood-covered toddler. He told the New York Times that “It was chaos in a matter of seconds” as the gunman drove through the area firing, and that people inside the restaurant screamed and flipped over tables for cover. Outside, he and his co-workers ran to the car containing the infant, and he also saw an older woman inside another car, bloodied and hyperventilating in shock after a bullet had passed through her car windows. It had apparently missed her, but the glass shrapnel had not.

Less than a block from the Starbucks, the Music City Mall was evacuated, sending shoppers and staff into a terrified sprint through and from the complex.

Another witness, a doctor, told the Associated Press that as he tried to treat a woman who was shot in her shoulder at an intersection, the gunman drove back past the same intersection again. “He was just everywhere,” the witness exclaimed. It is not yet clear how the shooter was able to move so widely about the city, as some reports indicate he was at times being chased by police.

The gunman eventually attacked and killed a U.S. Postal Service worker in a residential neighborhood, ditching his car and hijacking her post-office van. A witness reportedly saw the gunman pull the postal worker from the van, shooting her twice and killing her. The shooter then drove off and continued firing at victims from that vehicle. This led to reports that there were two gunmen driving around shooting at people in the city.

The lone gunman apparently doubled back east across the city, but police finally cornered him in the parking lot of the Cinergy movie theater on Highway 191, which was also evacuated. Two officers were shot in the ensuing gun battle, which killed the assailant.

By the end, 7 people were dead and another 22 injured. Hours later, much of the city was a taped-off crime scene — wherever the shooter’s bullets had struck.

One witness shared the below video of the final confrontation between police and the gunman to social media, later telling CNN that, “I could see the officer walking up to the mail van and discharging his weapon into it, and I believe that’s when the shooter was killed.”

Other witnesses shared harrowing videos of what the end of the crisis looked and sounded like while hugging the ground in terror:

The Victims

8 people were killed, including the gunman himself, and another 22 injured, including three law-enforcement officers, according to Odessa police. On Saturday, police originally said that five victims had been killed, but on Sunday the Odessa police department raised the death toll to seven, noting that the dead ranged in age from 15 to 57. Police also revised the total number of injured from 21 to 22.

The identities of the dead and injured began to emerge on Sunday — at first thanks to the wave of GoFundMe pages which now inevitably follow every mass shooting.

15-year-old Leilah Hernandez was shot and killed while she and her older brother walked out of a dealership with the keys to new truck he had just bought. Nathan Hernandez, 18, was also shot and, as of Sunday, remained hospitalized in intensive care. Her mother was at the dealership too. Leilah’s grandmother, Leyva, told the Washington Post that when the gunman drove by shooting, Leilah’s mom pushed her 9-year-old son under a car, and Nathan was shot in the arm while trying to shield his sister. Another bullet struck Leilah in the shoulder:

“Help me, help me,” was all the girl said as she died, Leyva said.

It took 20 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. Authorities put pressure on the wound from both sides, but “it was just too much blood coming out,” Leyva said. They told Nathan as they took him away in an ambulance: “Your sister did not make it.”

Ms. Hernandez was a student at Odessa High School and had just celebrated her quinceañera in May. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help her family with their expenses.

U.S. Postal Service mail carrier Mary Granados, 29, was also killed by the gunman. According to her twin sister, Ms. Granados was nearing the end of her shift and they were speaking on the phone when the gunman attacked her and hijacked her post-office van. “It was very painful. I just wanted to help her and I couldn’t. I thought she had got bit by a dog or something. I tried calling her name and she wouldn’t answer,” Rosie Granados told CNN. A former co-worker has set up a GoFundMe page to help her family pay for the funeral expenses.

In a statement Sunday, Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan said, “The Postal Service is shocked and saddened by the events that occurred yesterday in the Midland-Odessa area. We are especially grieving the loss of our postal family member, letter carrier Mary Granados, age 29, and we continue to keep her family in our thoughts. The United States Postal Inspection Service, the law-enforcement arm of the Postal Service, is working closely with our law-enforcement partners to assist with the investigation.”

Joseph Griffith, a 40-year-old former math teacher, was killed while sitting in his car at a traffic light with his wife and two kids. They were scheduled to take a family portrait later in the day. “This maniac pulled up next to him and shot him,” his sister told the Post. In a Facebook post Sunday, Griffith’s wife Becky asked people to go to church and “Get the word of God in your heart and love each other.”

Also killed in the attack was 25-year-old Edwin Peregrino, who was visiting his parents in Odessa two weeks after moving out of their home. According to the Washington Post, his 23-year-old sister, Eritizi Peregrino, said that he had run outside the house after hearing the sound of gunfire, then was shot by the gunman as he sped by. Her husband was also shot in the drive-by but survived. “You’re not even safe at your own house,” she said.

Before he was killed while driving in Texas, Kameron Brown served his country in Afghanistan. KWTX reported Sunday that Brown was shot while behind the wheel of his work truck. A spokesperson for his employer, Standard Safety & Supply, told the station: “We are deeply saddened at the loss of a member of our team. Kameron Brown died tragically as a victim of the senseless and horrifying shootings that occurred in and around Odessa on Saturday. We have been in contact with Kameron’s family to offer our deepest sympathies and support. We ask that the family’s privacy be respected during this most difficult time.”

A year ago, Rodolfo Arco moved with his family to Odesssa for his trucking business. The 56-year-old father of three was among those killed in this weekend’s shooting, his wife told NBC News.

On Saturday, 13 victims were sent to Permian Regional Medical Center in Odessa, which was also locked down because of the shooting. Seven victims were listed in critical condition on Saturday night, and police said that one victim was still fighting for their life on Sunday. One victim died of their injuries at the hospital on Saturday, according to a hospital official.

The official also confirmed that one of the survivors was a toddler, who appears to have been the girl who was shot in an intersection near the East 42nd Street Starbucks in Odessa. A GoFundMe page set up of by a friend of the girl’s family has identified her as 17-month-old Anderson Davis. According to the page, one bullet fragment hit her in the chest, and another put a hole in her lip and tongue and knocked her front teeth out. By midnight local time on Saturday, the GoFundMe effort had raised more than $100,000 for the little girl and her family in less than six hours.

According a GoFundMe set up by a family member to help with expenses, Midland police officer Zack Owens was shot multiple times in the arm and hand on Saturday, and was seriously injured in his eye by glass shrapnel. Zack’s brother, Jake, also serves on the Midland Police Department.

State trooper Chuck Pryor was also shot in the line of duty during the attack. A GoFundMe set up to help his family pay their expenses reports that he was shot in the face, and was in serious but stable condition after having surgery on Saturday night.

Marián Boado Encinosa was also among those shot during the rampage. According to a GoFundMe for her and her family, she was shot three times in the abdomen, chest, and elbow — which ultimately she lost due to the severity of the wound. Encinosa has a 10-month-old baby.

The Gunman

After initially declining to name the gunman in a press conference, Odessa police identified 36-year-old Seth Ator, of Odessa, as the shooter. He had a few previous encounters with the law, according to police records, including arrests for trespassing, resisting arrest, and public intoxication.

The New York Times reported Sunday that Ator was fired from his trucking job hours before the rampage. Still, police say they continue to search for a motive. On Sunday, police conducted a search of what appeared to be Ator’s home in rural Odessa. One neighbor told the Times that Ator was a “loner.” Another told CNN that she often saw Ator shooting from a structure on top of his house. Veronica Alonzo said Ator came to her home last month with a rifle and confronted her about leaving trash in a dumpster. Alonzo called police, but she said they were unable to find his remote home, which Alonzo said did not have running water or electricity.

As has been the case with a majority of mass shooters in the U.S., Ator was armed with an AR-style assault rifle. How the shooter obtained his weapon was not yet clarified by Monday morning.

Mass Panic and Confusion Struck Two Cities at Once

The mobile nature of the rampage over a range of many miles — and the fact that the gunman fired on his victims from two different vehicles — fueled mass confusion and fear in both Midland and Odessa. The sister cities, which are home to some 260,000 people, spent hours placed on lockdown while authorities tried to figure out what was happening. In addition, multiple authorities in each announced that there were separate active-shooter events, rather than just one. CBS-7/KOSA TV, an Odessa television station operating out of the Music City Mall, evacuated its studio during a live broadcast — with anchors narrating what was happening over their microphones while they fled. The University of Texas of the Permian Basin, also in Odessa, ordered its students to shelter in place.

Texas, Again

The attack was the second mass shooting to strike Texas in less than one month. On August 3, a white nationalist terrorist armed with an assault rifle and extended-ammo magazines killed 22 people and injured 24 others in a racially motivated massacre at an El Paso Walmart. That attack — which was followed by another massacre less than 12 hours later in Dayton, Ohio — horrified the nation and led to yet another wave of calls for more gun-control measures across the country.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who has repeatedly worked to loosen gun-control regulations in his state, called for unity on Saturday and offered his “unwavering support” to victims of the new shooting in west Texas. He added that he wanted “to remind all Texans that we will not allow the Lone Star State to be overrun by hatred and violence.”

Despite the fact that four of the ten worst mass shootings in American history have been committed in Texas, the state was hours away from enacting multiple new laws that would further reduce gun-control measures as the west Texas shooting was playing out. As of Sunday, schools will not be able to ban gun owners from keeping their weapons in their vehicles outside, and landlords and homeowners will no longer be able to ban gun owners from keeping weapons on their property. Another new law allows gun owners to carry handguns inside houses of worship in the state unless those houses of worship notify them that doing so is prohibited. (The change prompted Mormon leaders to implement a new policy banning the possession of firearms in all LDS churches, unless the person with a gun is a police officer.)

An Epidemic With No End in Sight

2019 has been another horrifying year in American gun violence. Per the Gun Violence Archive, which defines mass shootings as any incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, the rampage in west Texas was one of five mass shootings on Saturday, raising the year’s total number of mass shootings to 281, including 38 in August alone.

Per the GVA’s statistics, those shootings resulted in the deaths of 305 people, with 1,181 left injured. 67 of the deaths occurred in August.

This is a developing news story and this post will be continuously revised and updated as more information becomes available. This post has also been updated to remove an incorrect summary of one of Texas’s new gun laws: Houses of worship in Texas have not been prohibited from banning firearms inside their buildings — the new law made open and concealed carry explicitly legal in houses of worship unless they prohibited that and provided notice to gun owners.

Everything We Know About the Drive-By Mass Shooting in Texas