Five people were killed and 21 more injured in a mass shooting in and around the cities of Odessa and Midland, Texas, Saturday afternoon.
Police confirmed that the shooter, a white man in his mid-30s, was killed by officers at the Cinergy movie theatre in Odessa.
Among the victims are a student at Ector County Independent School District, who was killed, and a 17-month-old girl, who was wounded and flown to Lubbock for treatment.
The shootings sent the two neighbouring west Texas cities into chaos as police hunted for the gunman. Businesses and hospitals went into lockdown. The gunman apparently switched vehicles, hijacking a Postal Service mail van, during his rampage. This caused police to initially report that there were two shooters roaming the area. They later clarified that there was only one gunman and that he is dead.
What happened in Midland and Odessa?
Odessa Police Chief Mike Gerke said that the incident began when the suspect was pulled over for a traffic stop by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper about 3:15 p.m. Central Time. The suspect shot the trooper and fled in a gold-coloured Honda.
The traffic stop happened on Interstate 20, the highway that connects Midland and Odessa. At least one other person was shot on I-20, police said.
DPS troopers had attempted to conduct a traffic stop on the shooter’s vehicle on I-20, but before the vehicle came to a complete stop, the male driver, who was the only person in the vehicle, pointed a rifle towards the rear window of his car and fired several shots toward the patrol car.
Gerke said the gunman then shot multiple people on 42nd Street in Odessa.
At some point, the gunman hijacked a U.S. Postal Service van. Gerke said the believes the postal employee is among the victims.
Midland and Odessa (cities of about 140,000 and 100,000 people, respectively), are about 20 miles apart, connected by Interstate 20. They are about 240 miles east of El Paso, where a gunman targeting Hispanic victims killed 22 people at a Walmart on Aug. 3.
“This was a joint effort by a multitude of departments to find this animal and bring him to justice,” Gerke said at a later press conference.
The shooter has not yet been identified, although Gerke said that he is a white man in his mid-30s.
The El Paso branch of the FBI said that “it is too soon to know motive or the identity of the suspect.”
Police had initially said the shooter or shooters were believed to be shooting people from two separate vehicles — a hijacked U.S. Postal Service van and a small “gold/white” Toyota truck, according to the Midland Police Department. Police later said the two vehicles were driven by the same person.
Gerke said police have since received additional unverified reports about an active shooter, “which is to be expected because our citizens are a little jumpy after this,” but noted these reports were not confirmed. He added that “once this individual was taken out of the picture, there have been no more victims.”
Police declined to comment on the type of weapon used during the shooting, though earlier statements had cited a rifle.
Five people were killed and 21 others were wounded in the shooting, Odessa police said.
Ector County Independent School District confirmed that a student in the district was killed in the shooting.
“We are heartbroken and outraged by the violence that struck our community and our school district today. We are learning that we have lost friends, family members, as well as one of our students. Our lives have been changed forever,” the district said in a statement.
The suspect wounded police from three different agencies––officers from the Odessa Police Department and Midland Police Department, and a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper.
The trooper is in serious but stable condition and the two other officers are in stable condition at a local hospital, the Texas Department of Public Safety said Saturday night.
President Donald Trump said on Twitter that Attorney General William Barr had briefed him on the shooting, and that the FBI and law enforcement are “fully engaged.”
Former Texas congressman and 2020 Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, whose hometown of El Paso was devastated by the Aug. 3 mass shooting, spoke out about gun control measures from the campaign trail in Virginia.
“We don’t know how many have been shot. We don’t know how many people have been killed, the condition of those who have survived. Do not yet know what the motivation is, do not yet know the firearms that were used or how they acquired them. We do know this is f—-d up,” O’Rourke said.
“We do know this has to stop in this county. There is no reason that we have to accept this as our fortune, as our future, as our fate.”