Odessa, Texas: Authorities said on 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-kilometre) rampage that killed seven people, injured 22 others and ended with officers gunning him down outside a movie theater.
Authorities identified the shooter as 36-year-old Seth Aaron Ator, from 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.
Hundreds of people gathered at a local university on Sunday evening for a prayer vigil to console each other grieve the loss of life.
"We're out here in the middle of nowhere," Midland Mayor Jerry Morales told the crowd. "All we've talked about is oil forever. And then this happens."
Drawing a blank
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.
US 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 August 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.
25mass shootings in the US this year
"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 US 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.
142people killed in US mass shootings this year
"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."
Who were the victims?
Mail carrier Mary Granados was alone in her US Postal Service truck when she was shot and killed by the gunman.
The 29-year-old was among seven people between the ages of 15 and 57 killed on Saturday. Another 22 were injured, including a toddler.
US Postal Service officials said in a statement Sunday that they were "shocked and saddened" by the events, but were "especially grieving the loss of our postal family member."
The shooting began with a routine traffic stop where the gunman opened fire on police and then took off in a gold car, shooting randomly for more than 10 miles (16 kilometers). At some point during the turmoil, the gunman abandoned the car and stole the postal vehicle, killing Granados. Police finally used a marked SUV to ram the mail truck outside the Cinergy Movie Theater in Odessa, disabling the vehicle.
Here are stories about some of other victims:
Peregrino, 25, ran into the yard of his parents' Odessa home to investigate after hearing gunshots, his sister, Eritizi Peregrino, told The Washington Post. The gunman speeding by the home opened fire, killing him.
"It happened at our home. You think you're safe at your own house," Eritizi Peregrino, 23, said in an interview. "You're not even safe at your own house."
Eritizi Peregrino's husband also was shot. She said he is recovering.
Eritizi Peregrino said her brother was home for the weekend to talk about his new job and his new life in San Antonio.
"You could always count on him for anything," she said. "He would always help my parents and his siblings. I knew I could always rely on him and call on him."
Leilah, 15, was with her family Saturday as her 18-year-old brother, Nathan, picked up a truck. Nathan and Leilah were shot while walking out of the dealership, her grandmother, Nora Leyva, told the Post.
"I guess he was just looking for someone to kill," she said.
Leyva said Leilah's mother pushed Leilah's nine-year-old brother under a car. Nathan wrapped his arms around Leilah and was shot in the arm. Another bullet struck Leilah near her collarbone.
"Help me, help me," the girl said as she died, Leyva said.
Leilah, an Odessa High School student, celebrated her quinceanera in May.
"It was like a dream for her," Leyva said.
Odessa High's school district, the Ector County Independent School District, didn't name Leilah but said one of its students was among those killed.
Griffith was killed while sitting at a traffic light with his wife and two children, his oldest sister, Carla Byrne, told the Post.
"This maniac pulled up next to him and shot him, took away his life, murdered my baby brother. Like nothing," Byrne said. "We are so broken."
Byrne said Griffith, 40, worked six days a week to support his family. He was known for his sense of humor and an uncanny ability to impersonate people.
Griffith previously worked as a math teacher. One day before his death, a former student told Griffith what an "awesome teacher he was," his sister said.
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 immediately 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 appears 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 a lot 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? I'm just over here minding my own business, getting my own gas."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said 17-month-old Anderson is recovering but she faces surgery on Monday to remove shrapnel from her right chest. She also suffered injuries to her face. Abbott says 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."
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 on Sunday.
Abbott says the girl's mother also texted: "Toddlers are funny because they can get shot but still want to run around and play."