• July 10, 2020

Death toll rises to 8 after Saturday's shooting - Odessa American: Crime Justice

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Death toll rises to 8 after Saturday's shooting

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Posted: Saturday, August 31, 2019 4:18 pm

THE LATEST: City of Odessa director of communications Devin Sanchez said that there are eight confirmed deaths (three in Midland and five in Odessa), which includes the shooter. 

Eight people are dead and 25 others are injured following a traffic stop on Interstate 20 near Midland where a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper was shot by a gunman who then went on a shooting spree before being shot to death by law enforcement at Odessa’s Cinergy Theatre.

A Midland police officer and an OPD officer were also shot as was the driver of a mail truck that the gunman hijacked. Names of those who were killed and injured were not immediately released. The postal worker, co-workers said via social media, was killed.

As of press time, the conditions of the three law enforcement officers shot were not released. A procession of law enforcement vehicles about 7 p.m. drove north down the Andrews Highway with lights and sirens and then back up to Grant and down Eighth Street. Questions about that procession were not answered by press time.

The gunman, Odessa Police Department Chief Michael Gerke confirmed, is dead. His name was not released but he was described as a white male in his 30s.

The shootout followed a tense afternoon of panic around Odessa and Midland as businesses around the cities shut down and police warned people to stay indoors.

A press release from the Department of Public Safety indicated that at 3:13 p.m., troopers attempted to conduct a traffic stop on a gold passenger vehicle on Interstate 20 westbound near mile marker 131. The male driver pointed a rifle toward the rear window of his car and fired several shots toward the DPS patrol unit. The patrol unit was occupied by two troopers, and one was hit by the gunfire. The suspect fled the scene and continued shooting people, including a Midland police officer and an Odessa police officer.

During an OPD press conference Gerke, with Sheriff Mike Griffis and Odessa Fire Rescue Fire Chief John Alvarez by his side, answered questions but indicated he did not yet have a motive for the violence. Gerke said he believed the threat was over. Earlier social meeting postings seemed to indicate that there were multiple gunmen. Businesses across town locked their doors and the streets were all but empty as police searched for the gunman Saturday afternoon.

Interstate 20 westbound is closed between West Loop 250 in Midland and Grandview in Odessa. Texas Department of Transportation officials are being told it won’t reopen before 4 a.m. Sunday. TXDOT crews are manning the closures.

New Medical Center Hospital CEO Russell Tippin said during a press conference on Saturday that the hospital is handling a number of the victims.

Tippin and other officials said seven were critical, two were serious, one was deceased and one was transferred. Two others were treated and released.

Tippin said eight total patients from the shootings had been in surgery at MCH. He said blood supplies were good at the hospital but called for prayers for the victims, staff members and the community.

A GoFundMe page was started for a 17-month-old girl named Anderson Davis by Haylee Wilkerson. By press time the page had raised nearly $70,000. The post stated Anderson was hit by a bullet fragment that hit her right chest and left a hole in her bottom lip and tongue and knocked out her front teeth. She was airlifted to Lubbock.

A second GoFundMe page was started for Midland Police Officer Zack Owens. The post details he was shot multiple times in the arm and hand as well as suffering from glass shards in his eye.

The gunman was initially in a gold sedan but later hijacked a United States Postal Service truck and shot the driver.

An Odessa grandmother, her daughter and grandchildren witnessed the gunman in the hijacked postal truck open fire on an SUV near the VA center off Highway 191.

The woman, Rebecca Black, said they heard the warning about an active shooter and followed a mail truck that ran a red light thinking they were following it to safety. The mail truck pulled up near the VA and Black said the driver opened fire on a black SUV. “My daughter threw it into reverse and then we saw him head south and the cops were everywhere. We went to the 191 service road near Cinergy and my daughter saw the man get out of the mail truck and the cops were in a foot pursuit.”

Black said there was an exchange of gunfire as she huddled with her two young grandchildren in the backseat. “I am so thankful that we are all OK,” she said, shaken.

President Donald Trump early in the afternoon was briefed and tweeted that the White House was monitoring the situation. ATF agents from Dallas and Lubbock are responding. Gov. Greg Abbott is scheduled to be in Odessa Sunday to meet with family members and first responders.

At Medical Center Hospital, the staff went into crisis mode and called in emergency personnel. Family members rushed to the ER looking for information about the shooting.

Mike Barrett arrived at MCH around 6:45 p.m. because he said he received a call from his shop foreman that his boss was involved in the shooting.

The 63-year-old said his boss was reportedly traveling home when he was shot.

“I kept saying ‘What? What?” Barrett said. “He’s a good man and he doesn’t deserve this to happen to him. None of these people deserve this. I pray for all the families and all the people in (MCH) to strive and pray for the ones that had been killed and their families.”

Barrett talked about how his boss saved his life on Feb. 18 when he went into cardiac arrest while at work. Barrett said his boss performed CPR on him for 12 minutes before emergency services arrived. Barrett was transported to MCH and then later moved to a hospital in Fort Worth.

“I would trade my life for his right now,” Barrett said. “I’m just blown away by this. I never thought this would happen.”

The hospital was ready, Tippin said. He couldn’t give an exact number, but said a number of doctors, nurses and additional personnel were called in.

“The hospital has staged an area for the families,” CEO Tippin said. “We have counselors and grief counselors and social workers with the families right now. We are trying to find them support.”

Rey Chapa, a mortician at La Paz Perches Funeral Homes, said anyone who was a victim during Saturday’s shooting can receive free funeral services. La Paz Perches Funeral Homes is based out of El Paso and Chapa said offering free funeral services can ease the pressure on already grieving family members.

Authorities are urging anyone who believes they may have family members who are victims in this situation are urged to go to the Ector County Annex at 1010 E. 8th Street, or you can visit Safe and Well.com Police are asking the public to avoid going to area hospitals for information.

The Odessa Ministerial Alliance will host a prayer vigil at Memorial Park (Buffalo Wallow) at 7 p.m. Sunday.

UPDATE FROM MIDLAND POLICE 5:36 P.M.: It has been confirmed that the active shooter was shot and killed at the Cinergy in Odessa. There is no active shooter at this time. All agencies are investigating reports of possible suspects.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a statement following reports of a shooting in Odessa, Texas. The Governor will be traveling to Odessa tomorrow morning, September 1st.

“The First Lady and I are heartbroken over this senseless and cowardly attack, and we offer our unwavering support to the victims, their families, and all the people of Midland and Odessa,” said Governor Abbott. “The state of Texas and the Department of Public Safety are working closely with local law enforcement to provide resources as needed and deliver justice for this heinous attack. I thank the first responders who have acted swiftly and admirably under pressure, and I want to remind all Texans that we will not allow the Lone Star State to be overrun by hatred and violence. We will unite, as Texans always do, to respond to this tragedy.”

Odessa Police Department spokesperson Cpl. Steve LeSueur and other law enforcement agencies are urging Odessans to stay indoors while they search for an active shooter who was in gold sedan and high jacked a USPS mail truck.

LeSueur said the shooter is actively shooting at random people.

DPS spokesperson Sgt. Oscar Villarreal alerted CBS7 anchor Jay Hendricks that a trooper had been shot as well as others. The campus at UTPB was shutdown as an abundance of caution according to UTPB chief of staff Tate Hubbard.

Reports of business in the 42nd Street and JBS areas shutting down and closing their doors as police search for the gunman have been filed.

LeSueur said the postal truck was high jacked at 38th Street and Walnut Avenue.

Keep checking back for addition updates.

UPDATE 4:30 P.M. VIA OPD: A subject (possibly 2) is currently driving around Odessa shooting at random people. At this time there are multiple gunshot victims. The suspect just hijacked a U.S. mail carrier truck and was last seen in the area of 38th and Walnut. Everyone is encouraged to get off the road and use extreme caution! All law enforcement is currently searching for the suspect and more information will be released as soon as it becomes available.

Law enforcement agencies responded to reports of an active shooter on Saturday afternoon in east Odessa.

The Midland Police Department posted on its Facebook Page that there were reports of an active shooter near Home Depot in Odessa.

CBS7 news anchor Jay Hendricks reported that Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Sgt. Oscar Villarreal told him that a DPS trooper was shot along with others.

Law enforcement agencies are also reportedly looking for a gold sedan between Big Spring and Odessa on Interstate 20.

Motorists have been advised to avoid those areas.