ODESSA (KFDX/KJTL) — On Monday, Odessa Police and other agencies held a joint press conference to update the community on the status of a mass shooting investigation.
Seven victims died, and law enforcement officers also shot and killed the gunman on Saturday afternoon.
“There’s a total of 25 injured and 7 deceased victims,” the City of Odessa said on Monday.
The gunman was publicly identified as Seth Ator of Ector County.
Although the Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke did not speak of the shooter by name, he did release a list of specific facts during the press conference.
Here is a summary of those facts:
Suspect was fired from Journey Oilfield Services. “He was there a short time before he was terminated by his employer,” Gerke said. Gerke did not say specifically how long the shooter worked at Journey Oilfield Services before he was fired.
Suspect called 911 before the shooting. “Right after that firing he called 911, Odessa Police Department’s 911, and so did his employer. Basically, they were complaining on each other because they had a disagreement over the firing,” Gerke said.
Suspect leaves Journey Oilfield Services. “He leaves before our officers get there,” Gerke said.
Suspect calls the FBI hotline. “A short time before he makes contact with the DPS Trooper, he actually calls the FBI National Tip Line but makes no threats of any type of violence.” An FBI spokesman at the press conference characterized the call as rambling, but no threat of violence was made.
DPS Trooper did not know. “The DPS Trooper contacts him, not knowing any of this,” Gerke said. DPS had previously said a traffic stop was made on a car at 3:13 p.m. along mile marker 131 of Interstate 20 in Odessa. The stop was for failure to use a turn signal. DPS previously said the suspect pointed a gun from inside his car and shot at two DPS officers in their patrol unit. One was injured.
Suspect shot at people along I-20. “The subject then proceeds west on I-20 while shooting at innocent civilians creating victims,” Gerke said.
Suspect made his way to 42nd Street. “He again shoots multiple civilians creating victims,” Gerke said.
Suspect encounters a mail truck. “In the area of the 3800 block of North Adams, North Dixie, he encounters a postal employee and a postal vehicle — and hijacks that vehicle, and creates a casualty there,” Gerke said.
Suspect dumps his car and takes the mail truck. “He takes that vehicle and continues his shooting spree until he is finally contacted at the Cinergy by multiple law enforcement agencies,” Gerke said.
Shootout between suspect and officers. “An exchange of gunfire does ensue, and the threat is eliminated at that point,” Gerke said. The shootout was at the Cinergy movie theater in the 8200 block of State Highway 191.
Police do not know how the shooter got a gun. Gerke said on Monday he did not know how the shooter obtained a gun, which he previously described as an AR-style rifle. A representative of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms said the shooter was listed by NCIC and was “denied” when trying to purchase a gun. ATF said that part of the investigation was still ongoing.
So far, no note or written statement has been found. Gerke said to his knowledge, the shooter did not leave behind any written explanation of his motive.
The shooter had minor criminal incidents with OPD in the past. Gerke said he could not go into detail about the shooter’s criminal history, but his previous contacts with Odessa Police were “minor.” KMID previously found the shooter to have a record for trespassing, evading (for which he served deferred adjudication) and a federal transportation safety violation.
The shooter was on a downward spiral. FBI Special Agent Christopher Combs said a search of the shooter’s home showed the mental state of the shooter to be a “downward spiral.” Combs said people who notice someone on “the road to violence” should reach put to law enforcement for help.
“I want to be clear – the [suspect] showed up to work in a very distressed mental state,” Combs said. “It’s not because he got fired. This did not happen because he was fired.”
Speaking about active shooters in general, Combs said there are very few instances where people reach out to seek help for those they’re concerned about.
“We really need the public’s help to reach out to us when they see people on that downward spiral when they may be on that road to violence,” he said.
Combs said the suspect made phone calls to law enforcement previously and described most of them as incoherent ramblings.
The national FBI tip line receives around 800,000 calls a year. When investigators receive a tip, they will either work with state partners or a local FBI office.
In 2018, the FBI designated 27 shootings as active shooter incidents, according to a report on the agency’s website. During a Sunday press conference, Combs stated his agency is faced with responding to an active shooting almost every two weeks.
Most characteristics are similar in nature, like the “spiraling downward path,” he added. But he also noted that studies show in a large percentage of active shooters, people who encounter them either do nothing or they confront the person without leading them to help.
Combs said people should be aware of significant changes in behavior, such as a desire to see violence either online or in movies. He said mental health professionals, managers or law enforcement can be helpful resources.
“There’s a way to break that path, I really believe that, by people who see it,” he said.