A man pulled over by Texas troopers for a traffic violation Saturday afternoon went on a killing spree that took the lives of seven and injured 22 — including a 17-month-old girl — and ended with the shooter being killed by police in a movie theater parking lot.
After Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke refused to identify the shooter in an afternoon press conference today, officials released the name of Seth Aaron Ator, 36, of Odessa without elaboration.
Odessa Police said in a Saturday evening statement that “a traffic stop was initiated by DPS on I-20 between Midland and Odessa” at 3:25 p.m. “The driver opened fire on the trooper before fleeing westbound on the interstate, and shooting at a civilian at east Loop 338 and I-20. The suspect proceeded on a shooting spree in the City of Odessa and stole a mail carrier truck. The suspect continued shooting at innocent civilians all over Odessa before making his way to Cinergy on Highway 191.”
“The suspect then shot an Odessa Police Department officer, along with a Midland Police Department officer. Law enforcement officers returned fire, killing the suspect.” The three law enforcement officers who were shot are expected to recover. The mail carrier whose truck was hijacked, Mary Granados, 29, was shot to death.
Officials said Ator used an “AR-style” weapon in the spree. As is frequently the case in the confusion of mass or spree killings, police initially were hunting for potentially more than one shooter.
FBI agents searched Ator’s mobile home in Odessa this afternoon. The shooter reportedly worked as a truck driver. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal trespassing in 2001 and to evading arrest in 2002. Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Texas) told the Midland Reporter-Telegram Ator had previously failed a background check.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the San Antonio Field Office told reporters that the shooter did not appear to have connections to terrorist groups.
Combs noted that 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.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Fox News this morning that “it becomes a lot more challenging for us and for law enforcement in general” to ascertain a motive when the shooter is killed. “I think we will be learning a lot over the next couple of days.”
“The governor has put together a domestic terrorism task force. We actually just met on Friday, because, obviously, this is a horrific problem that we want to find a way to stop. So we brought in the best of the best from not just state, but federal,” Paxton said. “And we’re seeking answers to that question to see if there’s more things, which we believe there are, more things that we can do to stop this from happening in the future, or at least, when it happens, get to it quicker.”