(Editor’s note: The death toll grew Sunday morning from 5 to 7 people as the Associated Press reported that two victims in critical condition died overnight.)
A gunman in west Texas who went on a shooting spree, killing seven people while randomly firing from his vehicle and then from a hijacked mail truck, was shot and killed by police in a gun battle in a movie theater parking lot, authorities said Saturday.
Another 19 people were injured, including three law enforcement officers and a child under the age of 2.
Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke identified the shooter as a white male in his 30s. His name and a motive were not given.
The rampage began about 3:13 p.m. CT (2:13 p.m. MT) when two Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers attempted to conduct a traffic stop on a vehicle on Interstate 20 westbound, DPS Lt. Elizabeth Carter said.
Before that vehicle came to a complete stop, the driver and only occupant pointed a rifle toward his rear window and fired several shots toward the DPS patrol unit, wounding one of the troopers, Carter said.
Gerke said the driver traveled west into Odessa and shot another person, then continued through the city where “there were multiple victims,” the chief said. Devin Sanchez, a spokesman for the City of Odessa, said someone in a gold vehicle was driving around shopping centers and shooting people from his vehicle.
The shooter abandoned his vehicle, stole a mail truck and shot at more people, Gerke said. During the confusing moments of the pursuit, authorities thought there might be two shooters firing from two vehicles.
The shooter drove toward the Cinergy movie theater, where he and police officers exchanged gunfire in the parking lot and the man was killed, the chief said.
Witness to the shooting
Alex Wood said he drove up to the theater complex and saw a large number of police vehicles.
“When we had arrived about five minutes before the shooting had begun, I had no clue the shooter was even there,” Wood said. “There was just police everywhere and there was a bunch of people behind the theater in the field walking and next thing you know this gunfire is going off.”
“Next thing you know, I hear a pop, so, I flip the camera to where the theaters at and I just see a bunch of gunfire going off,” Wood said.
“I could see the officer walking up to the mail van and discharging his weapon into it, and I believe that is when the shooter was killed.”
Gerke said the injured three law enforcement officers included one from the Department of Public Safety, one from the Midland Police Department and one from Odessa Police Department. Carter said the trooper was in serious but stable condition, and the two other officers were in stable condition at a local hospital.
Shooting happened four weeks after El Paso
This is the second mass shooting in Texas in August. Only four weeks ago, a gunman killed 22 people in the Walmart mass shooting in El Paso. Odessa is about 285 miles east of El Paso. Politicians quickly responded.
President Trump tweeted, “Just briefed by Attorney General Barr about the shootings in Texas. FBI and Law Enforcement is fully engaged. More to follow.”
Vice President Mike Pence told reporters, “Our hearts go out to all the victims and families who had loved ones lose their lives.”
Pence said he and the President are “determined to work with leaders in both parties in congress to take steps that we can address and confront this scourge of mass atrocity in our country.”
Democratic presidential candidate and El Paso native Beto O’Rourke on Saturday reacted to news of this mass shooting by proclaiming, “We need to end this epidemic.”
“Our hearts are with Midland, Odessa, and everyone in West Texas who has to endure this again. More information is forthcoming, but here’s what we know: We need to end this epidemic,” he tweeted.
FBI and other agencies responding
A law enforcement official said agents from the FBI’s Midland office responded to assist with the incident. The Midland office is a satellite office of the FBI’s El Paso division.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Dallas tweeted that its agents also responded to the shooting.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a statement Saturday, saying:
“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. 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.”
Cinergy Entertainment Group, which operates five entertainment centers in Texas and Oklahoma, said in a statement Saturday it is “grateful for the swift response from local authorities and first responders throughout the Midland/Odessa community.”