Law enforcement agencies are still unclear about a motive or what triggered Odessan Seth Ator to go on a shooting spree that began as a traffic stop and ended with seven dead and 22 injured in some of the worse violence the city has ever endured.
The 36-year-old gunman shot Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Chuck Pryor and then went on a shooting spree before he was shot and killed by law enforcement at Odessa’s Cinergy Theatre while horrified theater-goers huddled on the ground outside of the theater.
Authorities on Sunday tried to piece together a timeline of who Ator shot and when and where. There are multiple crime scenes as people were shot all over town.
Gov. Greg Abbott was part of a news conference held at a command post set up at UTPB. He was surrounded by elected officials from West Texas — State Senator Kel Seliger, State Reps. Brooks Landgraf and Tom Craddick — as he spoke during a press conference Sunday afternoon at UTPB.
“I’m heartbroken by the crying of the people of the state of Texas,” Abbott said. “I’m tired of the dying of the people of the state of Texas. Too many Texans are in mourning. Too many Texans have lost their lives. The status quo in Texas is unacceptable. Action is needed.”
Law enforcement officials who sat around Abbott included Odessa Police Department Chief Michael Gerke, Texas Department of Public Safety El Paso Region Commander Orlando Alanis and FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs. Midland Police Department Chief Seth Herman and Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis were also in attendance.
Ator was identified as the gunman by City of Odessa director of communications Devin Sanchez via email after the news conference.
“I’m not going to give him any notoriety for what he did,” Gerke said during the press conference. “We will provide that information to you, but not on this public stage.”
As of Sunday afternoon, law enforcement agencies hadn’t released the list of the victims that were shot. Gerke said the seven victims that were shot and killed range in age from 15 to 57. Sanchez also stated in an email there have been eight confirmed deaths, five in Odessa and three in Midland. That number includes the gunman.
There were more than 50 members of the media at the press conference on Sunday afternoon, which included news outlets from Texas and the rest of the nation.
Gerke also detailed the gunman used an AR-type weapon and said he was unclear of how he obtained the firearm. Gerke wouldn’t give the specifics on an exact model.
Alanis said the initial traffic stop was made after a simple traffic violation — fail to signal required distance. Alanis said Trooper Pryor went through surgery Saturday and the doctors left optimistic that he will have a full recovery after rehabilitation. Conditions of the OPD and Midland Police Department officers weren’t released.
Combs said throughout the country the FBI responds to an active shooter situation every two weeks. He also said there are 135 FBI personnel in Odessa with assistance from DEA and ATF and the Postal Service.
Combs also said FBI officials do not believe this is domestic or international terrorism.
“We will be here for the duration of the time the chief needs our services,” Combs said. “Unfortunately, we will then get ready to go to the next active shooter. It’s an unfortunate statement to make, but it seems like that’s what we do. We respond to one after another of these horrible events.”
Ator owned two pieces of property located at 24 Cavalli Circle in West Odessa, the Ector County Appraisal District detailed. Griffis stated in a text message that Ector County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to that property once in 2017 after he reported a burglary.
Ator has been previously arrested and charged by the OPD with public intoxication, a class C misdemeanor, on May 26, 2014, jail records show. He also had a federal motor carrier safety violation, a misdemeanor traffic violation, which was dismissed on Aug. 17, 2018, court records show.
The Odessa American also learned that Ator was fired from a job a year ago for arguing with co-workers and trying to fight people at the workplace. The business alerted the police after he made threats against the workplace.