Police: 7 killed, 22 injured in West Texas shooting rampage

ODESSA, Texas (AP) — Authorities said Sunday they still could not explain why a man with an AR-style weapon opened fire during a routine traffic stop in West Texas to begin a terrifying rampage that killed seven people, injured 22 others and ended with officers gunning him down outside a movie theater.

Two law enforcement officials identified the shooter as Seth Ator, who records show is 36 years old. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke had refused to publicly say the name of the gunman during a national televised news conference Sunday, saying he did not want to give the shooter notoriety. He had previously described the gunman as a white male in his 30s, and authorities told reporters that the shooter had a criminal record but did not go into detail.

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Mass shooting in Odessa, Texas
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gestures during a news conference concerning Saturday's shooting Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas. From left are Christopher Combs, FBI Special Agent in Charge, San Antonio, Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke and Abbott. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke announces that he does not want to speak the name of the shooter from Saturday's shooting during a news conference Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke, center, answers a question concerning Saturday's shooting during a news conference Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas. From left are Christopher Combs, FBI Special Agent in Charge, San Antonio, Gerke, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, right, pats Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke, left, on the shoulder during a news conference about Saturday's shooting, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Law enforcement officials process a scene involved in Saturday's shooting, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas. The death toll in the West Texas shooting rampage increased Sunday as authorities investigated why a man stopped by state troopers for failing to signal a left turn opened fire on them and fled, shooting more than a dozen people as he drove before being killed by officers outside a movie theater. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
A city of Odessa police car, left, and a U.S. mail vehicle, right, which were involved in Saturday's shooting, are pictured outside the Cinergy entertainment center, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas. The death toll in the West Texas shooting rampage increased Sunday as authorities investigated why a man stopped by state troopers for failing to signal a left turn opened fire on them and fled, shooting over a dozen people as he drove before being killed by officers outside a movie theater. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
A U.S. Mail vehicle, right, which was involved in Saturday's shooting, is pictured outside the Cinergy entertainment center Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas. The death toll in the West Texas shooting rampage increased Sunday as authorities investigated why a man stopped by state troopers for failing to signal a left turn opened fire on them and fled, shooting over a dozen people as he drove before being killed by officers outside a movie theater. A police vehicle is partially blocked at left. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Agentes acordonan un tramo de acera en una calle en Odessa, Texas, el sábado 31 de agosto de 2019, después de que un hombre armado secuestrara un vehículo del servicio postal y baleara a más de 20 personas, según las autoridades. (Mark Rogers/Odessa American vía AP)
Un hombre reza ante la unidad de urgencias del Medical Center Hospital en Odessa, Texas, el sábado 31 de agosto de 2019 tras un tiroteo en la zona de Odessa y Midland, en el oes de Texas. (Mark Rogers/Odessa American via AP)
Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke talks to the media in the Odessa Police Department in Odessa, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, after a man fired at random in the area of Odessa and Midland. Several people were dead after a gunman who hijacked a postal service vehicle in West Texas shot more than 20 people, authorities said Saturday. The gunman was killed and a few law enforcement officers were among the injured. (Mark Rogers/Odessa American via AP)
ODESSA, TX - SEPTEMBER 1: A damaged police vehicle and U.S. Postal Service van blocked off with tape nearby to where a gunman was shot and killed at Cinergy Odessa movie theater following a deadly shooting spree on September 1, 2019 in Odessa, Texas. Seven people had been killed, in addition to the gunman and at least 21 others were wounded, including three law enforcement officers after a gunman went on a rampage. The man who has not been identified fled from state troopers who had tried to pull him over. The gunman then hijacked a United States postal van and indiscriminately fired from a rifle at people before the authorities shot and killed him outside a movie theater in Odessa. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)
ODESSA, TX - SEPTEMBER 1: A damaged police vehicle and U.S. Postal Service van blocked off with tape nearby to where a gunman was shot and killed at Cinergy Odessa movie theater following a deadly shooting spree on September 1, 2019 in Odessa, Texas. Seven people had been killed, in addition to the gunman and at least 21 others were wounded, including three law enforcement officers after a gunman went on a rampage. The man who has not been identified fled from state troopers who had tried to pull him over. The gunman then hijacked a United States postal van and indiscriminately fired from a rifle at people before the authorities shot and killed him outside a movie theater in Odessa. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)
ODESSA, TX - SEPTEMBER 1: A damaged police vehicle and U.S. Postal Service van blocked off with tape nearby to where a gunman was shot and killed at Cinergy Odessa movie theater following a deadly shooting spree on September 1, 2019 in Odessa, Texas. Seven people had been killed, in addition to the gunman and at least 21 others were wounded, including three law enforcement officers after a gunman went on a rampage. The man who has not been identified fled from state troopers who had tried to pull him over. The gunman then hijacked a United States postal van and indiscriminately fired from a rifle at people before the authorities shot and killed him outside a movie theater in Odessa. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)
ODESSA, TX - SEPTEMBER 1: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott leaves a press conference with local and federal law enforcement at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) following a deadly shooting spree on September 1, 2019 in Odessa, Texas. Seven people had been killed, in addition to the gunman and at least 21 others were wounded, including three law enforcement officers after a gunman went on a rampage. The man who has not been identified fled from state troopers who had tried to pull him over. The gunman then hijacked a United States postal van and indiscriminately fired from a rifle at people before the authorities shot and killed him outside a movie theater in Odessa. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)
ODESSA, TX - SEPTEMBER 1: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott holds a press conference with local and federal law enforcement at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) following a deadly shooting spree on September 1, 2019 in Odessa, Texas. Seven people had been killed, in addition to the gunman and at least 21 others were wounded, including three law enforcement officers after a gunman went on a rampage. The man who has not been identified fled from state troopers who had tried to pull him over. The gunman then hijacked a United States postal van and indiscriminately fired from a rifle at people before the authorities shot and killed him outside a movie theater in Odessa. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)
ODESSA, TX - SEPTEMBER 1: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott holds a press conference with local and federal law enforcement at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) following a deadly shooting spree on September 1, 2019 in Odessa, Texas. Seven people had been killed, in addition to the gunman and at least 21 others were wounded, including three law enforcement officers after a gunman went on a rampage. The man who has not been identified fled from state troopers who had tried to pull him over. The gunman then hijacked a United States postal van and indiscriminately fired from a rifle at people before the authorities shot and killed him outside a movie theater in Odessa. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)
ODESSA, TX - SEPTEMBER 1: Flowers hang on the Odessa Police Department sign following a deadly shooting spree on September 1, 2019 in Odessa, Texas. Seven people had been killed, in addition to the gunman and at least 21 others were wounded, including three law enforcement officers after a gunman went on a rampage. The man who has not been identified fled from state troopers who had tried to pull him over. The gunman then hijacked a United States postal van and indiscriminately fired from a rifle at people before the authorities shot and killed him outside a movie theater in Odessa. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)
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The gunman acted alone and federal investigators believe the shooter had no ties to any domestic or international terrorism group, FBI special agent Christopher Combs said. Authorities said those killed were between the ages of 15 and 57 years old but did not immediately provide a list of names. The injured included three law enforcement officers.

Gerke said there were still no answers as to the shooter's motives. The shooting began Saturday afternoon with an interstate traffic stop where gunfire was exchanged with police, setting off a chaotic rampage during which the suspect hijacked a mail carrier truck and fired at random as he drove in the area of Odessa and Midland, two cities in the heart of Texas oil country more than 300 miles (483 kilometers) west of Dallas.

Combs said the gunman might have entered the Odessa movie theater where the chase ended if police had not taken him down.

"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," Combs said.

The shooting came at the end of an already violent month in Texas, where on Aug. 3 a gunman in the border city of El Paso killed 22 people at a Walmart. Sitting beside authorities in Odessa, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ticked off a list of mass shootings that have now killed nearly 70 since 2016 in his state alone.

"I have been to too many of these events," Abbott said. "Too many Texans are in mourning. Too many Texans have lost their lives. The status quo in Texas is unacceptable, and action is needed."

But Abbott remains noncommittal about imposing any new gun laws in Texas at a time when Democrats and gun-control groups are demanding restrictions. And even as Abbott spoke, a number of looser gun laws that he signed this year took effect on the first day of September, including one that would arm more teachers in Texas schools.

The terrifying chain of events began when Texas state troopers tried pulling over a gold car mid-Saturday afternoon on Interstate 20 for failing to signal a left turn, Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said. Before the vehicle came to a complete stop, the driver "pointed a rifle toward the rear window of his car and fired several shots" toward the patrol car stopping him. The gunshots struck one of two troopers inside the patrol car, Cesinger said, after which the gunman fled and continued shooting.

Two other police officers were shot before the suspect was killed. Authorities say the trooper was in serious but stable condition on Saturday, and the other officers were stable.

Witnesses described gunfire near shopping plazas and in busy intersections

Dr. Nathaniel Ott was working at an Odessa emergency care center where he is the medical director when he gunshots. He rushed outside to find a woman in the driver's seat of an SUV bleeding from a gunshot wound in the arm. Ott said that as he and a paramedic were working on the woman, the shooter drove back by, followed by police.

"The shooter drove within 30 feet of us and drove up that road," Ott said Sunday, pointing to one of the streets leading past the shopping center where his facility is located. "The shooter was driving. It was insane. He was just everywhere."

He said the woman was taken to a hospital and he doesn't know how she's doing.

Daniel Munoz, 28, of Odessa, was driving Saturday afternoon to meet a friend at a bar but first had to stop for gas. Once his tank was full, he returned to the road but had to yield to traffic coming off Interstate 20. As a car approached slowly, he immediately noticed what he feared to be the barrel of a rifle in the hands of the driver.

"This is my street instincts: When a car is approaching you and you see a gun of any type, just get down," said Munoz, who moved from San Diego about a year ago to work in oil country. "Luckily I got down. ... Sure enough, I hear the shots go off. He let off at least three shots on me."

Saturday's shooting brings the number of mass killings in the U.S. so far this year to 25, matching the number in all of 2018, according to The AP/USATODAY/Northeastern University mass murder database. The number of people killed this year has already reached 142, surpassing the 140 people who were killed of all last year. The database tracks homicides where four or more people are killed, not including the offender.

President Donald Trump has offered contradictory messages in reacting to recent mass shootings. Days after the El Paso shooting, he said he was eager to implement "very meaningful background checks" on guns and told reporters there was "tremendous support" for action. He later backed away, saying the current system of background checks was "very, very strong."

On Sunday, Trump reiterated his more recent calls for greater attention to mental health. Trump has said new facilities are needed for the mentally ill to reduce mass shootings. However, some mental health professionals say such thinking is outdated, that linking mental illness to violence is wrong, and that the impact of more treatment would be helpful overall but would have a minor impact on gun violence.

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Weber reported from Austin. Associated Press journalists Jeff Karoub in Detroit; Eric Tucker, Michael Balsamo and Meghan Hoyer in Washington; and Tim Talley in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

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