ODESSA, Texas — The gunman in a spate of violence after a routine traffic stop in West Texas had been fired from his job and called both police and the FBI before the shooting began, authorities said Monday.
Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke said 36-year-old Seth Aaron Ator had been fired over the weekend from Journey Oil Services. He said both Ator and the company called 911 after being fired Saturday but that Ator was gone by the time police showed up. FBI special agent Christopher Combs says Ator’s statements on the phone were “rambling.”
Authorities said Ator killed seven people and injured at least 22 others Saturday before officers killed him outside a busy movie theater in 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 the “AR style” weapon he used.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Monday that “we must keep guns out of criminals’ hands” – words similar to his remarks that followed another mass shooting in El Paso on Aug. 3, when he said firearms must be kept from “deranged killers.” But Abbott, a Republican and avid gun rights supporter, has been noncommittal about tightening Texas gun laws.
He also tweeted that Ator failed a previous gun background check and didn’t go through one for the weapon he used in Odessa. He did not elaborate, and a spokesman referred questions to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which didn’t immediately respond for comment.
Authorities said those killed were between 15 and 57 years old but did not immediately provide a list of names. Family and employers, however, said that among the dead were Edwin Peregrino, 25, who ran out of his parents’ home to see what the commotion was; mail carrier Mary Granados, 29, slain in her U.S. Postal Service truck; and 15-year-old high school student Leilah Hernandez, who was walking out of an auto dealership.
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