Police say no explanation yet for Texas shooting frenzy

ODESSA, Texas (AP) — Authorities said Sunday they still could not explain why a man with an AR-style
weapon opened fire during a routine traffic stop in West Texas to begin a terrifying, 10-mile
(16-kilometer) rampage that killed seven people, injured 22 others and ended with officers gunning him
down outside a movie theater.
Authorities identified the shooter as Seth Aaron Ator, 36, of Odessa. Online court records show Ator 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 Ator got his weapon.
Ator acted alone and federal investigators believe the shooter had no ties to any domestic or
international terrorism group, FBI special agent Christopher Combs said. Authorities said those killed
were between the ages of 15 and 57 years old but did not immediately provide a list of names. The
injured included three law enforcement officers, as well as a 17-month-old girl who sustained injuries
to her face and chest.
Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke refused to say the name of the shooter during a televised news
conference, saying he wouldn’t give him notoriety, but police later posted his name on Facebook. A
similar approach has been taken in some other recent mass shootings.
Gerke said there were still no answers pointing to a motive for the chaotic rampage, which began Saturday
afternoon when Texas state troopers tried pulling over a gold car on Interstate 20 for failing to signal
a left turn.
Before the vehicle came to a complete stop, the driver "pointed a rifle toward the rear window of
his car and fired several shots" toward the patrol car stopping him, according to Texas Department
of Public Safety spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger. The gunshots struck a trooper, Cesinger said, after
which the gunman fled and continued shooting. He fired at random as he drove in the area of Odessa and
Midland, two cities in the heart of Texas oil country more than 300 miles (483 kilometers) west of
Dallas. At one point, he hijacked a mail carrier truck, killing the lone postal worker inside.
U.S. Postal Service officials identified her as Mary Granados, 29.
Police used a marked SUV to ram the mail truck outside the Cinergy Movie Theater in Odessa, disabling the
vehicle. The gunman then fired at police, wounding two officers. Combs said the gunman might have
entered the theater if police had not killed him.
"In the midst of a man driving down the highway shooting at people, local law enforcement and state
troopers pursued him and stopped him from possibly going into a crowded movie theater and having another
event of mass violence," Combs said.
Police said Ator had no outstanding warrants. His arrest in 2001 was in the county where Waco is located,
hundreds of miles east of Odessa. Online court 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.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said a 17-month-old girl is recovering but faces surgery on Monday to remove
shrapnel from her right chest. She also suffered injuries to her face. Abbott says the mother 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."
The shooting came at the end of an already violent month in Texas, where on Aug. 3 a gunman in the border
city of El Paso killed 22 people at a Walmart. Sitting beside authorities in Odessa, Abbott ticked off a
list of mass shootings that have now killed nearly 70 since 2016 in his state alone.
"I have been to too many of these events," Abbott said. "Too many Texans are in mourning.
Too many Texans have lost their lives. The status quo in Texas is unacceptable, and action is
needed."
But Abbott, a Republican, remains noncommittal about imposing any new gun laws in Texas at a time when
Democrats and gun-control groups are demanding restrictions. And even as Abbott spoke, a number of
looser gun laws that he signed this year took effect on the first day of September, including one that
would arm more teachers in Texas schools.
Saturday’s shooting brings the number of mass killings in the U.S. so far this year to 25, matching the
number in all of 2018, according to The AP/USATODAY/Northeastern University mass murder database. The
number of people killed this year has already reached 142, surpassing the 140 people who were killed of
all last year. The database tracks homicides where four or more people are killed, not including the
offender.
Witnesses described gunfire near shopping plazas and in busy intersections.
Dr. Nathaniel Ott was working at an Odessa emergency care center where he is the medical director when he
heard gunshots. He rushed outside to find a woman in the driver’s seat of an SUV bleeding from a gunshot
wound in the arm. Ott said that as he and a paramedic were working on the woman, the shooter drove back
by.
"The shooter drove within 30 feet of us and drove up that road," Ott said Sunday, pointing to
one of the streets leading past the shopping center where his facility is located. "The shooter was
driving. It was insane. He was just everywhere."
Daniel Munoz, 28, of Odessa, was headed to a bar to meet a friend when he noticed the driver of an
approaching car was holding what appeared to be a rifle.
"This is my street instincts: When a car is approaching you and you see a gun of any type, just get
down," said Munoz, who moved from San Diego about a year ago to work in oil country. "Luckily
I got down. … Sure enough, I hear the shots go off. He let off at least three shots on me."
He said he was treated at a hospital and is physically OK, though bewildered by the experience.
"I’m just trying to turn the corner and I got shot — I’m getting shot at? What’s the world coming
to? For real?"
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Weber reported from Austin. Associated Press journalists Jeff Karoub in Detroit; Eric Tucker, Michael
Balsamo, Meghan Hoyer and Michael Biesecker in Washington; and Tim Talley in Oklahoma City contributed
to this report.