Texas shooting toll rises to seven

September 02, 2019
People hold candles
People hold candles at the end of the prayer vigil at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) for the victims of a mass shooting, September 1, 2019 in Odessa, Texas. Seven people had been killed, in addition to the gunman and at least 21 others were wounded, including three law enforcement officers after a gunman went on a rampage. The man who has not been identified fled from state troopers who had tried to pull him over. The gunman then hijacked a United States postal van and indiscriminately fired from a rifle at people before the authorities shot and killed him outside a movie theater in Odessa. Cengiz Yar/Getty Images/AFP

WASHINGTON — The death toll in a chaotic mass shooting in Texas has risen to seven, the local police chief confirmed Sunday, adding that it might have been far worse had the shooter not been stopped before entering a crowded movie theater.

On Sunday, police identified the shooter as a local man named Seth Aaron Ator, age 36.

Police had said Saturday that five people died in the frantic shootout spread out over several miles on roads between the cities of Midland and Odessa in the west of the state.

They said Sunday that two more people had died. The dead ranged in age from 15 to 57, and the 22 injured included three police officers and a 17-month-old girl who was shot in the mouth but was recovering. At the end of the shooting spree, the assailant — whose identity police said they were not ready to release — died in a shootout with police outside an Odessa movie theater.

Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke told reporters Sunday that he could not be absolutely certain of the suspect’s intent, but then added, “He showed up at a movie theater, which would tend to show his motives.

”Gerke said that on a Saturday afternoon in Odessa, the theater would have been one of the most crowded venues.At the time, the chief refused to publicly name the shooter so as not to give him notoriety. He said there was “some criminal record attached to his driver’s license,” but no active warrants.

On Sunday afternoon Odessa police, on their Facebook page, named the shooter as Ator and said he was from Odessa.Gerke said the shooter used an “AR-type” weapon — an assault-style arm such as has been used in several other mass shootings.

Reports said Ator is a white man in his mid-30s. Police gave no details, only his name and age.                                                     

FBI special agent Christopher Combs said at the briefing that authorities did not believe there was any connection to domestic or international terrorism.

The incident began when troopers tried to pull over a gold-colored passenger vehicle on the Interstate 20 highway. Gerke said the driver had failed to signal a left turn.

Before the vehicle stopped, “the male driver (and only occupant in the vehicle) pointed a rifle toward the rear window of his car and fired several shots toward the DPS patrol unit,” the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement.

One trooper was wounded, and the suspect fled, leading police on a wild chase during which he hijacked a US postal truck and opened fire at random.Coming less than a month after a gunman killed 22 people in the Texas city of El Paso — less than 300 miles (480 kilometers) west of Odessa — the latest bloodshed has ignited fresh calls for steps to stem the US scourge of mass shootings.