ODESSA, Texas — Unnamed officials told the New York Times that the gunman, who left seven people dead and 22 injured after opening fire in two West Texas towns, was fired from his job hour before Saturday’s massacre.
The shooting began with a routine traffic stop where the gunman opened fire on police, then took off in a gold car, shooting randomly for more than 10 miles.
The shooter was later named in a Facebook post by the Odessa Police Department.
The incident began when a gold-colored car was stopped by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper for failing to signal.
Police say the shooter grabbed a rifle and shot at a pair of troopers through the rear-view window — wounding one — before driving away. He then sped off and continued his rampage, firing at motorists and pedestrians before hijacking a U.S. Postal Service truck.
The shooter was killed after being chased by officers from neighboring cities Midland and Odessa.
Police say investigators are still researching potential motives for the shooting.
The West Texas community is banding together to show solidarity and support to the victims and their families. Hundreds of people gathered at a local university in the Permian Basin region Sunday evening for a prayer vigil to console each other and grieve the loss of life.
Madison Tate, spokesperson for Odessa Regional Medical Center, which initially received six shooting victims, said Monday afternoon two victims remain hospitalized “and are showing signs of improvement.” Four victims were discharged Saturday.
One victim remains in critical condition, Tate said, but is stable and showing signs of improvement. Tate said the other victim’s condition has improved and the victim is no longer in intensive care.
Police have yet to release a list of the victims’ names, but media outlets have been able to confirm some victims through GoFundMe pages and social media:
The U.S. Postal Service confirmed to the USA TODAY Network that one of its employees — 29-year-old Mary Granados — was among those killed.
“The Postal Service is shocked and saddened by the events that occurred yesterday in the Midland-Odessa area,” a USPS statement said. “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.”
USPS said its law enforcement arm, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, is working with law enforcement to assist in the investigation.
Rosie Granados, Mary’s sister, told CNN that she heard Mary scream as she was shot while talking on the phone.
“It was very painful,” Granados told the news outlet. “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 and a former coworker named Leslie Aide set up a GoFundMe page to offset funeral expenses.
Joseph Griffith, 40, was waiting at a traffic light with his wife and two children when he was fatally shot, Carla Byrne, Griffith’s oldest sister, told The Washington Post.
“This maniac pulled up next to him and shot him, took away his life, murdered my baby brother,” Griffith told The Post. “Like nothing. We are so broken.”
Byrne told the news outlet that Griffith had been a math teacher who cared deeply for his students.
Becky Griffith, Joseph’s wife, urged people to attend church in a Facebook post Sunday morning.
“I’ve been up most of the night and I’d like to ask you all to get up and go to church,” Griffith wrote. “Pray for those still fighting for their lives, pray for those devastated by what they witnessed yesterday and pray for those dealing losses. Get the word of God in your heart and love each other.”
Rodolfo ‘Rudy’ Arco
Rodolfo “Rudy” Arco, 57, had left his home in Las Vegas after the anniversary of a mass shooting that took place at a music festival there in 2017, according to his sister Maria Arco.
“He felt that Odessa was the place to go,” she said. “He sold everything in Vegas and moved there, in the hopes that things would be safer for him and the family.”
Rudy, who owned a trucking company in Odessa, was driving on Saturday when three bullets were fired at his truck. Two went through the cab and one came right through the window and killed him instantly, Arco said.
Rudy’s daughter, Julieanna, works at Music City Mall in Odessa. After being released from lockdown there on Saturday, she headed home and saw her father’s truck on the side of the road, Arco said. Julieanna was directed to the hospital, her aunt said.
Arco said that she, Rudy and their youngest brother, Emilio, moved with their family to the U.S. as Cuban refugees in 1969. She described her brother as loving and joyous — the kind of person who’d always try to help other people at a party to have fun.
“He enjoyed life,” she said.
He was an entrepreneur who started the trucking business in Odessa and previously owned several taquerias in Las Vegas.
Arco described the violence in this country as a “societal ill.”
“It’s not a geographical ill that is in this country,” she said. “We need to take care of whatever is ailing our families in our society. I don’t think it’s guns, I think it goes deeper than that. It’s not about one physical thing — I think it goes to the emotional.”
Above all, Arco said society must take a collective stand against violence.
“I just think it’s too many,” she said. “Our legislators can only do so much, but I think society is the one that needs to say, ‘Okay, we’re done here.’”
A GoFundMe has been started for Rudy’s family.
Leilah Herandez was the youngest among the dead.
Leilah’s grandmother, Nora Leyva, told The Post that she spent two years helping the family plan the girl’s quinceañera, which they celebrated in May.
Leyva described to The Post how Leilah’s mother was stunned as she mourned the loss of her 15-year-old daughter. The family remained gathered at the Odessa hospital where they awaited updates on the condition of Leilah’s 18-year-old brother, Nathan, who was shot while his arms were around her.
The Ector County Independent School District tweeted it was mourning the loss of one of its students but didn’t name Leilah.
“We are heartbroken and outraged by the violence that struck our community and our school district today,” the school district tweeted. “We are learning that we have lost friends, family members, as well as one of our students.”
The district added that it will provide additional councilors to help staff, students and families process the tragedy.
Kameron Brown survived the deserts of Afghanistan as a U.S. Army soldier before he was gunned down in the country he called home.
Standard Safety & Supply, a first-aid and fire protection service based in Odessa where Brown was employed, mourned the loss of its former employee on the company Facebook page.
“We are deeply saddened to confirm that a member of our team died tragically as a victim of the senseless and horrifying shootings that occurred in and around Odessa on Saturday,” the company wrote. “We ask that the privacy of our team member and his family be respected during this most difficult time.”
The company also shared a link to a GoFundMe page, which described Brown as being a resident of Brownwood, Texas, a city nearly 200 miles east of Odessa.
“The funds raised through this campaign will provide financial assistance for Kameron’s family as they make funeral arrangements for their beloved family member,” the GoFundMe page said. The page’s organizer, Meghan Farmer, did not specify her relationship with Brown or his family.
The Coleman County Chamber of Commerce, expressed its condolences on Facebookand said Brown had attended school in Coleman, east of Midland.
Edwin Peregrino, 25, was visiting his parents in Odessa when he went outside to investigate the sound of gunshots and was hit, The Post reported.
His sister, Eritizi Peregrino, told the news outlet her brother was visiting after recently moving to San Antonio.
“You’re not even safe at your own house,” Peregrino told The Post.
Peregrino’s husband also was shot, but is recovering.
22 others injured
Nearly two dozen other people were injured in the mass shooting, including a 17-month-old girl and three law enforcement officers.
One of those officers was Zack Owens, 28, with Midland’s police department.
According to a GoFundMe page created for him, Owens was shot multiple times in the arm and hand. His most serious injury was glass shards in his eye.
The page’s creator, Abigail McCollough, is Owens’s cousin by marriage.
“What we really need is a lot of prayer. Not only for Zack, but for everyone impacted by today’s events,” McCollough wrote in a Facebook post.
Owens has been an officer with the department since December 2014, according to a Police Department post on Facebook. On Sunday, the Midland Police Department posted on Facebook a message of thanks to the community, including their “cherished brother” Owens.
Daniel Munoz, 28, who was injured, recalled the harrowing details of coming into the path of the gunman, who was later killed by officers. Munoz was in his car on the way to meet a friend for a drink, when he yielded to a car coming off Interstate 20. He noticed what he feared to be a barrel of a rifle in the hands of the driver.
“This is my street instincts: When a car is approaching you and you see a gun of any type, just get down,” Munoz, who moved from San Diego about a year ago to work in oil country, told The Associated Press. “Luckily I got down. … Sure enough, I hear the shots go off. He let off at least three shots on me.”
He’s not exactly sure, but it appeared one shot hit the engine, another struck the driver’s side window and a third a rear window. Some shattered glass punctured his left shoulder, causing him to bleed and go to a nearby hospital. He said he’s physically OK but bewildered by the experience.
“I’m just trying to turn the corner and I got shot — I’m getting shot at?” Munoz said. “What’s the world coming to? For real?”
Seventeen-month-old Anderson Davis had shrapnel in her right chest and injuries to her face. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said her mother, Kelby Davis, texted: “Her mouth is pretty bad, but will heal and can be fixed. Thankfully it doesn’t seem like her jaw was hit. Just lips, teeth and tongue. … We are thanking God for healing her and appreciate continued prayers.”
Abbott said the girl’s mother also texted: “Toddlers are funny because they can get shot but still want to run around and play.”
A joint public statement issued by the Davis family offered thanks to emergency responders, hospital staff and “strangers who offered to help us on the street.”
Eric Finley, spokesman for UMC Health System in Lubbock, said in an email that the toddler was released from hospital Sunday.
A local funeral home, Perches, offered to provide free funeral services for families impacted by the shooting.
At a Sunday afternoon press conference, Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke said police knew the shooter’s identity, but refused to release it to the media. Gerke said he wouldn’t give the mass shooter additional notoriety.
The shooter was identified as 36-year-old Seth Aaron Ator in a Facebook post by the Odessa Police Department.
Online court records show he was arrested in 2001 for a misdemeanor offense that would not have prevented him from legally purchasing firearms in Texas, although authorities have not said where he got the “AR style” weapon he used.
Police said his arrest was in the county where Waco is located, hundreds of miles east of Odessa. Records show he was charged then with misdemeanor criminal trespass and evading arrest. He entered guilty pleas in a deferred prosecution agreement where the charge was waived after he served 24 months of probation, according to records.
Searches under his name yielded few results on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Public records list his address in Lorena, Texas — a small city with a population of roughly 1,800 people, according to census data. The city is approximately 300 miles east of Odessa-Midland.
Records also suggest he attended Texas State Technical College in Waco, Texas in 2005, and appeared to have attended McLennan Community College, also in Waco, between 2007 and 2013.
Rodriguez reported from McLean, VA. Contributing: Molly Duerig, Perry Vandell, George Schroeder and Marco della Cava, Arizona Republic; the Associated Press.
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