Mass shooting survivor credits miracle

An Oklahoma family will spend the weekend in Pecos finally finishing a trip that was interrupted Labor Day weekend when they faced terror on Interstate 20 during the Aug. 31 mass shooting.

Brad and Brenda Grimsley credit a miracle that they are able to finish the outing to Pecos to see her parents after Brad became the first civilian shot during gunman Seth Ator’s wild shooting spree that day in Odessa and Midland that claimed seven lives and injured 25.

The Grimsleys, along with Brenda’s sister Kay Perea, were driving from their home in Mustang, Okla., that Labor Day weekend to visit Brenda and Kay’s parents when they witnessed Ator, who was shot and killed that day by law enforcement near Odessa’s Cinergy Theater, shoot DPS Trooper Chuck Pryor.

“We saw Seth get out of the car with his gun and we saw Trooper Pryor hit,” Brenda said.

She said her husband wanted to go back to help the trooper when she realized that the gunman was right behind them in his car and that she wanted to take his photo because he had shot the trooper. That’s when she realized he had a gun hanging out the passenger window of his car.

What happened next is both riveting and terrifying. Brad said he was going more than 100 mph trying to outpace Ator who had pulled up beside them. Brad said he and the gunman were eye to eye when Brad hit the brakes and was shot in the lower abdomen.

His last glimpse of Ator was the gunman smiling at him as he shot him with an AR-15. “Seth turned his head around and he looked at me and smiled and, I’ll never forget it, it was like an old jack-in-the-box wind up toy and he was just bouncing up and down that he got me,” Brad said.

Brenda said she immediately fell to her knees on the side of the road when DPS Trooper Mike Baskerville, who was responding to the report of Trooper Pryor being shot, pulled up and asked what was going on.

She said Baskerville’s quick thinking and the work of her sister, a trauma nurse, saved Brad’s life. “I’m on three blood thinners but he was able to stop the bleeding.” He said Kay used a sweater to stop the bleeding while Baskerville ran to his unit to get gauze to put inside the wound.

Brad, who retired as a master sergeant in the Marine Corp., said he joked with the trooper while he was dressing his gunshot wound that he never thought he “would be that intimate with a trooper…hey, I had to make the guy smile,” Brad said.

He said he can look back on it now and knows it was a miracle that they all survived when others did not but also said he thought at one point that he was dying and that he wanted to make sure his wife and sister-in-law were safe and that he wanted to tell his wife of 22 years he loved her.

Brad would go on to spend five days in Midland Memorial Hospital and said he continues to undergo wound care in Mustang for his injury. He said a half inch in either direction and he would have died.

Brad, Brenda and Kay were interviewed Friday at the Odessa Chamber of Commerce where they had gone to meet with CEO Renee Earls and to present Trooper Baskerville with a homemade gift from Brenda to thank him for his response. The gift was a dreamcatcher that Brenda, who said she and her sister are of Cherokee heritage, made for him.

Baskerville was clearly moved by the gift and the experience he endured on Aug. 31. “I will never forget it,” he said. He’s been with DPS for five years and is based out of Midland.

All talked about the power of prayer and agreed with Brad when he said “there was something stronger in that car than just us” and that a miracle brought all of them together that day.

Brenda said they would visit Mile Marker 129 on Friday to take a photo and a moment to remember that day. “To me it is part of the healing process to come to terms with this…I look at it as there was good that came out of it. There was a reason we all came to be here and I got to meet Trooper Baskerville and Renee …and I still have my husband.”

Sister Kay said “strangers on the side of the road” became so much more that day and that through the tragedy of Aug. 31 a community came together.

Now the trio is in Pecos completing that trip they started months ago. Earls said she loved that they were finishing the trip.

The Grimsleys said they are also thankful for the help of Midland Memorial, the FBI and the folks who donated to the fund to help the families of the victims.

“It means a lot to me as a family and as a man and also as a human being knowing that everyone did what they did for everybody,” Brad said of the fund that will distribute more than $1 million to the victims.