In a daring drive-by mass shooting shocking weekend commuters and shoppers, a white man in his 30s killed seven people and injured 22 others, including three law enforcement officers, between Odessa and Midland cities in West Texas before being shot and killed by police, local reports say.
The condition of seven of the 13 injured admitted to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa is said to be critical. Two, including a Texas state trooper of the department of public safety (DPS), are in a serious condition and two others have been discharged after treatment.
A 17-month-old child injured in the shooting was transferred to University Medical Center in Lubbock where she will undergo a surgery on Monday to remove a shrapnel from the right chest.
Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke did not name the dead shooter at Sunday’s press conference as he did not want to give him undue attention. However, the police later identified him as Seth Ator in its Facebook post.
Gerke said the gunman acted alone but his motive remained unknown. He ruled out any domestic or external terror links to the mass shooting.
Ator used an AR-15 type weapon to open fire on a DPS vehicle after he was pulled over for a traffic stop on Interstate 20 around 3.15 pm. One of the troopers in the vehicle was hit in the firing. Ator then sped westward, randomly shooting passing motorists and pedestrians on a 30-kilometre route.
Among those hit were a police officer in Midland and another in Odessa. The two are said to be in a stable condition.
To cover tracks, Ator abandoned his Honda truck, hijacked a mail truck and turned eastward.
Ator was shot and killed at Cinergy movie house in Odessa where he was probably planning to carry out a massacre, Gerke said.
A video posted on Facebook showed panic-stricken people running out of the theatre and frantically seeking cover.
Gerke called the shooter “different” because he was mobile and described the incident as extraordinary as it involved at least 15 crime scenes.
Addressing media, Texas Governor Greg Abbott condemned Saturday’s “senseless and cowardly attack” and offered support to the affected families.
The latest gun violence comes four weeks after a shooter killed 22 people at a Walmart store in El Paso.
It also happened one day before several restrictions on guns, including allowing firearms in public places like churches and schools, were to be relaxed in Texas.
Abbott said words alone are inadequate and they must be met with action. The state needs solutions to keep guns out of the hands of criminals while safeguarding citizens’ right to keep and bear arms.
He dodged questions on stricter gun laws in the wake of recent shootings in Texas. Some 53 people were killed in gun violence in August alone in the state.
On May 18 last year, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old student, shot dead ten people at Santa Fe High School in Texas.
This was the second-deadliest school shooting in the US last year after the Stoneman Douglas High School attack in February that left 17 dead.
On November 5, 2017, 26 people were killed during a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.