Armed with an “AR-type weapon,” the West Texas gunman was headed to a crowded movie theater in Odessa when police gunned him down.
Police declined to announce the name of the suspect at a Sunday press conference, but he was identified later by law enforcement as Seth Aaron Ator, a 36-year-old white man living in Odessa.
Authorities said the suspect acted alone and had a criminal record. Ator was charged in 2001 with criminal trespass and evading arrest, according to Heavy.com.
Christopher Combs, FBI special agent in charge, said that local and state law enforcement were the “true heroes,” chasing down the shooter and before he could reach a popular movie theater in Odessa.
“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,” said Mr. Combs at the press event. “I think that’s the story of law enforcement that should be conveyed.”
The death toll climbed Sunday to seven people, plus the gunman, as police investigated more than 15 crime scenes and the FBI executive a search warrant at a home in West Odessa.
At the press conference, Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke refused to say the name of the deceased gunman, saying, “I’m not going to give him any notoriety for what he did.”
The seven people killed by the shooter ranged in age from 15 to 57. Another 19 people were injured, including a 17-month-old who was hit by shrapnel in the mouth and chest, according to a text from the child’s mother read by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
“Toddlers are funny because they can get shot but still want to run around and play,” Mr. Abbott continued, reading the mother’s text.
Among the dead was postal worker Mary Granados, whose van was hijacked by the shooter, and a student in the Ector County Independent School District. Three law enforcement officers shot in the melee were in stable condition, according to TV station KOSA, the CBS affiliate in the Midland-Odessa area.
The governor praised the “robust and heroic response” from law enforcement officers working to “bring the gunman down and to quickly de-escalate the challenge, and to literally save lives.”
Mr. Abbott, a Republican, also vowed to take action against the mass shootings that have hit Texas especially hard in the last few years, most recently with the El Paso Walmart massacre in August, which left 22 people dead and 24 injured.
“We are here today, and we will be here every day until this community is pieced back together,” Mr. Abbott said. “But we know that words alone are inadequate. Words must be met with action.”
While he said he has signed more than 15 bills to prevent school shootings, Mr. Abbott declared that the “status quo in Texas is unacceptable,” and that his administration has been working since the El Paso shooting on possible executive and legislative solutions.
“Now in the aftermath of this shooting, and the unique aspects of this shooting, we must broaden our efforts to address tragedy that has befallen Odessa,” Mr. Abbott said. “And we must do so quickly. We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of criminals like the killer here in Odessa while also ensuring that we safeguard Second Amendment rights. And we must do it fast.”
Rep. Tom Craddick, Texas Republican, told the Midland Reporter-Telegram that the suspect had previously failed a background check.
President Trump also praised Sunday the “incredible job” of law enforcement and first responders.
The gunman opened fire on state troopers after being pulled over in Midland, Texas, for what appeared to be a routine traffic stop for failing to signal, shooting randomly at locals before abandoning his vehicle and hijacking a postal truck on his way to the Cinergy Cinemas.
“Please understand that on a Saturday in Odessa, Texas, that is one of the most crowded places to be,” Chief Gerke said.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan described such “devastating” mass shootings as a “homeland security threat.”
“They absolutely are a homeland security threat,” Mr. McAleenan said on ABC’s “This Week.” “In our counterterrorism strategy and approach, domestic terrorism has taken a frontline focus for us.”