A gunman killed seven people and injured 22 others on Saturday in the city of Odessa in western Texas. Police have identified the gunman as 36-year-old Seth Ator and say he went on the rampage just hours after he was fired from his trucking job. Police say the massacre began after an officer pulled Ator over for failing to use a turn signal. He then reportedly opened fire using an AR-15-style weapon before speeding away. Soon after, he began shooting randomly at residents and motorists as he drove between the cities of Odessa and Midland.
During a press conference the day after the shooting, FBI special agent Christopher Combs identified the shooter and gave more details into the timeline of the shooting. Combs said that Ator showed up to work enraged and was then fired from his job at Journey Oilfield Services. Police say the firing led to both him and his employer calling the cops on each other because they were having a disagreement over the firing. By the time police arrived to calm down the situation, the soon-to-be mass killer was gone. Combs said 15 minutes later, Ator made a second call to the FBI national tip line. “It was frankly rambling statements about some of the atrocities he felt he had gone through. He did not make a threat during that phone call. He ended that phone call. After that phone call, we initiated all of our law enforcement procedures trying to figure out who he was, where he was. Unfortunately, it was only 15 minutes before the trooper was engaged.”
The shooting spree began on Aug. 31st at 3:17 p.m. during a traffic stop on Interstate 20, where a Texas state trooper was shot while attempting to stop a Honda over a failure to signal a left turn. Ator continued into Odessa, Texas, and shot another person on the Interstate. In Odessa, he abandoned the Honda, hijacked a United States Postal Service truck, killing the postal worker and continued to drive and shoot people before police cornered him in a movie theater parking lot. Ator was killed in the shootout with police in the parking lot of a Cinergy movie theater. Ator killed seven people, ranging in age from 15 to 57. Twenty-two others were hospitalized for injuries. 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 who is expected to recover.
The shooting spree lasted roughly an hour, with the gunmen shooting people at random as they walked through their front yards, walked through parking lots and went about their day. Police say the gunmen drove in no particular pattern, doubling back from Odessa to Midland, spraying people with bullets as he drove. During the frenzied hour, dispatchers and officers guided EMT to a growing number of locations as the calls kept coming in. Ator’s vehicle switch only added to the confusion as the police in both communities scrambling to head to the scene of each call in hopes of stopping the shooter. At one point during the chaos, officers believed they had two shooters due to the vehicle switch and multiple locations and officers requested that the Midland area be shut down immediately.
On September 1, the FBI said it was executing a search warrant at the suspect’s house, located about 20 minutes west of Odessa. Authorities say Ator lived alone, except for a small dog, in western Ector County in a metal shack that lacked electricity, plumbing, a floor and even furniture. Police say 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. 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.
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. Police never visited Ator’s home because they couldn’t find the property on GPS maps. Another neighbor said 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.
All seven victims from the shooting have now been identified: 29-year-old Mary Granados, the postal worker who was killed when the gunman hijacked her postal truck; 57-year-old Rodolfo Arco was shot on his way home from work; 30-year-old Kameron brown was an army vet who served in Afghanistan; 40-year-old Joe Griffith, a resident in Odessa; 25-year-old Edwin Peregrino, a graduate of Perryton High School; 35-year-old Raul Garcia of El Paso and 15-year-old Leilah Hernandez who was shot outside of a car dealership.