Texas gunman was fired from job, called FBI before shooting

High School students Celeste Lujan, left, and Yasmin Natera mourn their friend Leila Hernandez, one of the victims of the Saturday shooting in Odessa, at a memorial service on Sunday.

ODESSA, Texas — The gunman in a spate of violence after a routine traffic stop in West Texas had just been fired from his job and called both police and the FBI before the shooting began, authorities said Monday.

Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke said 36-year-old Seth Aaron Ator had been fired Saturday from Journey Oilfield Services. He said both Ator and the company called 911 after the firing but that Ator was gone by the time police showed up. FBI special agent Christopher Combs says Ator’s statements on the phone were “rambling.”

Authorities said Ator killed seven people and injured at least 22 others Saturday before officers killed him outside a busy movie theater in Odessa.

Combs said Ator “was on a long spiral down” before the shooting and that he went to work that day “in trouble.”

“This did not happen because he was fired. He showed up to work enraged,” said FBI special agent Christopher Combs of the suspected shooter.

Combs said the place where Ator lived was “a strange residence” and that the condition reflected “what his mental state was going into this.” He didn’t elaborate.

Online court records show Ator was arrested in 2001 for a misdemeanor offense that would not have prevented him from legally purchasing firearms in Texas, although authorities have not said where Ator got the “AR style” weapon he used.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Monday that “we must keep guns out of criminals’ hands” — words similar to his remarks that followed another mass shooting in El Paso on Aug. 3, when he said firearms must be kept from “deranged killers.” But Abbott, a Republican and avid gun rights supporter, has been noncommittal about tightening Texas gun laws.

He also tweeted that Ator failed a previous gun background check and didn’t go through one for the weapon he used in Odessa. He did not elaborate, and a spokesman referred questions to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which didn’t immediately respond for comment.

Authorities said those killed were between 15 and 57 years old but did not immediately provide a list of names. Family and employers, however, said that among the dead were Edwin Peregrino, 25, who ran out of his parents’ home to see what the commotion was; mail carrier Mary Granados, 29, slain in her U.S. Postal Service truck; and 15-year-old high school student Leilah Hernandez, who was walking out of an auto dealership.

Hundreds of people gathered at a local university in the Permian Basin region known for its oil industry Sunday evening for a prayer vigil to console each other and grieve the loss of life.

“We’re out here in the middle of nowhere,” Midland Mayor Jerry Morales told the crowd. “All we’ve talked about is oil forever. And then this happens.”

The attack began Saturday afternoon when Texas state troopers tried pulling over a gold car on Interstate 20 for failing to signal a left turn. 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, according to Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger. The gunshots struck a trooper, Cesinger said, after which the gunman fled and continued shooting. He fired at random as he drove in the area of Odessa and Midland, two cities more than 300 miles (482 kilometers) west of Dallas.

Police used a marked SUV to ram the mail truck outside the Cinergy Movie Theater in Odessa, disabling the vehicle. The gunman then fired at police, wounding two officers before he was killed.

“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,” FBI special agent Christopher Combs said.

Police said Ator’s arrest in 2001 was in the county where Waco is located, hundreds of miles east of Odessa. Online court records show he was charged then with misdemeanor criminal trespass and evading arrest. He entered guilty pleas in a deferred prosecution agreement where the charge was waived after he served 24 months of probation, according to records.

Gerke, the Odessa police chief, refused to say the name of the shooter during a televised news conference, saying he wouldn’t give him notoriety. But police later posted his name on Facebook. A similar approach has been taken in some other recent mass shootings in an effort to deny shooters notoriety.

The shooting came at the end of an already violent month in Texas following the El Paso attack at a Walmart that left 22 people dead. Sitting beside authorities in Odessa, 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.”

On Sunday, a number of looser gun laws that Abbott signed this year took effect on the first day of September, including one that would arm more teachers in Texas schools.

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.

Daniel Munoz, 28, of Odessa, was headed to a bar to meet a friend when he noticed the driver of an approaching car was holding what appeared to be a rifle.

“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.”

He said he was treated at a hospital and is physically OK, though bewildered by the experience.

“I’m just trying to turn the corner and I got shot — I’m getting shot at? What’s the world coming to? For real?”

———

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

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(17) comments

cleanrunoff

As I noted on another article on this topic, there is no solution. This is who we are, who we have evolved to be. The victims are such a small price to pay for the idea of America, we have accepted them as part of that price, and are completely willing to pay it. Why not just come to terms with these facts and move on?

Russian

If you support the GOP/NRA you support American Genocide

Russian

Putin wouldn’t tolerate mass killings in Russia which is why Russians fund the NRA to advocate for liberal gun laws in America resulting in an epidemic of mass firearm killings.

Russian

Don’t allow males to own firearms problem solved

DickD

Reading between the lines, this man was not too stable. Losing his job caused him to lose his mental stability. You will never be able to predict that in all cases. What we need is fewer guns. The only reason that we don't have fewer guns is the Republicans yelling about their 2nd Amendment rights.



We need legislation and we need it now.

gabrielshorn2013

So Dick, what do you propose, and give details on how you would accomplish your goal. Please keep the Second Amendment and the constitutionality of your proposals in mind in your response.

DickD

The proposals are already out there, Gabe. What I really don't want is registration, but without registration it is my opinion nothing will be achieved. We definitely need to outlaw assault weapons - they were once, we need background checks and a red flag law, with a judge's ruling. This is not what I would like, it is what I think we need to stop the carnage. And I really think Hough is a far right wing nut.

gabrielshorn2013

Thanks for the response Dick. But you only answered half of the question by providing the easy "whats" but not the difficult (and contentious) hows. I agree with background checks, and if I ever sold one of my firearms, I would voluntarily do a NICS check, but not for family or friends that I could personally vouch for. But then again, I would probably never sell a firearm to someone I didn't know anyway. Red Flag laws are OK, IF AND ONLY IF due process is followed. There should also be an avenue for reparations if a false claim is made. You cannot outlaw 20 million modern sporting rifles, such as the AR15 Dick. The level of compliance would be near zero. Not only would you have 2nd amendment issues, but also 4th and 5th. Registration of each firearm purchased and requirement of a registration fee is analogous to keeping a record of every vote a person casts in a database, and paying a poll tax to do so. SCOTUS has already said that poll taxes are unconstitutional.

rikkitikkitavvi

1. America is relatively safe, and the trend is toward becoming safer.

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, violent crime has been declining steadily since the early 1990s.

The 2011 homicide rate was almost half of the rate in 1991, and according to Pew Research, the 2013 gun-related death rate was half of the rate in 1993.

The number of non-fatal firearm crimes committed in 2011 was one-sixth the number committed in 1993.

In the past few years, there have been minor increases in certain types of violent crimes, mainly in large metropolitan areas. However, these increases are nowhere near those seen in the 1990s and are largely related to gang activity.

It should be remembered that it takes at least three to five years of data to show true trend lines. It appears that the collective homicide toll for America’s 50 largest cities decreased modestly in 2017 after two consecutive years of increases.

2. The principal public safety concerns are suicides and illegally owned handguns.

According to the Pew Research Center, almost two-thirds of America’s annual gun deaths are suicides. Since 1981, when the Centers for Disease Control began publishing data, gun suicides have outnumbered gun homicides. In 2010 alone, 19,392 Americans used guns to kill themselves.

Most gun-related crimes are carried out with illegally owned firearms—as much as 80 percent according to some estimates.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports prove that the overwhelming majority of gun-related homicides are perpetrated with handguns, with rifles of any kind accounting for less than 3 percent of gun-related homicides. In 2013, 5,782 murders were committed by killers who used a handgun, compared to 285 committed by killers who used a rifle. The same holds true for 2012 (6,404 to 298); 2011 (6,251 to 332); 2010 (6,115 to 367); and 2009 (6,501 to 351).

More people are stabbed to death every year than are murdered with rifles.

A person is more likely to be bludgeoned to death with a blunt object or beaten to death with hands and feet than to be murdered with a rifle.

3. A small number of factors significantly increase the likelihood that a person will be a victim of a gun-related homicide.

Where do you live? Murders in the United States are very concentrated. According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, over 50 percent of murders occur in 2 percent of the nation’s 3,142 counties. Moreover, gun-related homicides are heavily concentrated in certain neighborhoods within those counties: 54 percent of U.S. counties had zero murders in 2014.

Who is your partner? According to a recent scholarly article in the Hastings Law Journal, people recently or currently involved in an abusive intimate relationship are much more likely to be victims of gun-related homicide than is the rest of the population, especially if the abuser possesses firearms.

Are you in a gang? According to the Department of Justice’s National Gang Center, particularly in urban areas, significant percentages of gun-related homicides (15 percent to 33 percent) are linked with gang and drug activity. Gang-related homicides are more likely to involve firearms than non-gang-related homicides are.

Are you a male between 15 and 34? The majority of standard gun murder victims are men between the ages of 15 and 34. Although black men make up roughly 7 percent of the population, they account for almost two-thirds of gun murder victims every year.

Women and children are more likely to be the victims of mass shootings and homicide-suicide shootings than they are to be the victims of a “typical” gun-related homicide.

4. The perpetration of gun-related murders is often carried out by predictable people.

According to studies, almost all mass public shooters have extensive histories of mental health issues (whether delusional/psychiatric or depression/anger), disturbing behaviors, or interpersonal violence.

Intimate partner conflict and domestic violence history are major risk factors for homicide-suicides, even for those not involving intimate partners.

Especially in urban areas, a small number of recidivist violent offendersare typically responsible for the majority of gun violence.

5. Higher rates of gun ownership are not associated with higher rates of violent crime.

Switzerland and Israel have much higher gun ownership rates than the United States but experience far fewer homicides and have much lower violent crime rates than many European nations with strict gun control laws.

While some will argue that the guns carried by Swiss and Israeli citizens are technically “owned” by the government in most cases, this does little to negate the fact that many citizens in those countries have ready access to firearms.

Canada is ranked 12th in the world for the number of civilian-owned guns per capita and reports one of the world’s lower homicide rates—but even then, some provinces have higher homicide rates than U.S. states with less restrictive laws and higher rates of gun ownership have.

Although many gun control advocates have noted that “right-to-carry” states tend to experience slight increases in violent crime, other studies have noted the opposite effect.

Higher rates of concealed carry permit holders are even more strongly associated with reduction in violent crime than are “right-to-carry” states. The probable reason for this is that “right-to-carry” studies often include “open carry” states, which have not been shown to correlate with more people actually carrying or even owning firearms. Rates of concealed carry permit holders are better indicators of the number of people who actually possess and carry firearms within a given population.

Further, as with most correlations, there are many other factors that can account for increases in concealed carry permits—including the fact that people who live in already dangerous neighborhoods seek out means of self-defense. The Huffington Post noted that the rate of concealed carry permit requests in Chicago has soared in recent years after the city loosened restrictions, in large part, according to the Chicago Tribune, because law-abiding residents are increasingly worried about rising rates of violent crime in the city.

The rate of gun ownership is higher among whites than it is among African-Americans, but the murder rate among African-Americans is significantly higher than the rate among whites.

Similarly, the rate of gun ownership is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, but urban areas experience higher murder rates.

6. There is no clear relationship between strict gun control legislation and homicide or violent crime rates.

The Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence ironically makes this clear with its ratings for states based on gun laws. “Gun freedom” states that score poorly, like New Hampshire, Vermont, Idaho, and Oregon, have some of the lowest homicide rates. Conversely, “gun-control-loving” states that received high scores, like Maryland and Illinois, experience some of the nation’s highest homicide rates.

The Crime Prevention Research Center notes that, if anything, the data indicate that countries with high rates of gun ownership tend to have lower homicide rates—but this is only a correlation, and many factors do not necessarily support a conclusion that high rates of gun ownership cause the low rates of homicide.

Homicide and firearm homicide rates in Great Britain spiked in the years immediately following the imposition of severe gun control measures, despite the fact that most developed countries continued to experience a downward trend in these rates. This is also pointed out by noted criminologist John Lott in his book “The War on Guns.”

Similarly, Ireland’s homicide rates spiked in the years immediately following the country’s 1972 gun confiscation legislation.

Australia’s National Firearms Act appears to have had little effect on suicide and homicide rates, which were falling before the law was enacted and continued to decline at a statistically unremarkable rate compared to worldwide trends.

According to research compiled by John Lott and highlighted in his book “The War on Guns,” Australia’s armed and unarmed robbery rates both increased markedly in the five years immediately following the National Firearms Act, despite the general downward trend experienced by other developed countries.

Great Britain has some of the strictest gun control laws in the developed world, but the violent crime rate for homicide, rape, burglary, and aggravated assault is much higher than that in the U.S. Further, approximately 60 percent of burglaries in Great Britain occur while residents are home, compared to just 13 percent in the U.S., and British burglars admit to targeting occupied residences because they are more likely to find wallets and purses.

It is difficult to compare homicide and firearm-related murder rates across international borders because countries use different methods to determine which deaths “count” for purposes of violent crime. For example, since 1967, Great Britain has excluded from its homicide counts any case that does not result in a conviction, that was the result of dangerous driving, or in which the person was determined to have acted in self-defense. All of these factors are counted as “homicides” in the United States.

7. Legally owned firearms are used for lawful purposes much more often than they are used to commit crimes or suicide.

In 2013, President Barack Obama ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assess existing research on gun violence. The report, compiled by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, found (among other things) that firearms are used defensively hundreds of thousands of times every year.

According to the CDC, “self-defense can be an important crime deterrent.” Recent CDC reports acknowledge that studies directly assessing the effect of actual defensive uses of guns have found “consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.”

Semi-automatic rifles (such as the AR-15) are commonly used as self-defense weapons in the homes of law-abiding citizens because they are easier to control than handguns, are more versatile than handguns, and offer the advantage of up to 30 rounds of protection. Even Vox has published stories defending the use of the AR-15.

AR-15s have been used to save lives on many occasions, including:

Oswego, Illinois (2018) — A man with an AR-15 intervened to stop a neighbor’s knife attack and cited the larger weapon’s “intimidation factor” as a reason why the attacker dropped the knife.

Catawba County, North Carolina (2018) — A 17-year-old successfully fought off three armed attackers with his AR-15.

Houston, Texas (2017) — A homeowner survived a drive-by shooting by defending himself with his AR-15.

Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (2017) — A homeowner’s son killed three would-be burglars with an AR-15 (the man was later deemed to have acted in justifiable self-defense).

Ferguson, Missouri (2014) — African-American men protected a white man’s store from rioters by standing outside armed with AR-15s.

Texas (2013) — A 15-year-old boy used an AR-15 during a home invasion to save both his life and that of his 12-year-old sister.

Rochester, New York (2013) — Home intruders fled after facing an AR-15.

8. Concealed carry permit holders are not the problem, but they may be part of the solution.

Noted criminologist John Lott found that, as a group, concealed carry permit holders are some of the most law-abiding people in the United States. The rate at which they commit crimes generally and firearm crimes specifically is between one-sixth and one-tenth of that recorded for police officers, who are themselves committing crimes at a fraction of the rate of the general population.

Between 2007 and 2015, murder rates dropped 16 percent and violent crime rates dropped 18 percent, even though the percentage of adults with concealed carry permits rose by 190 percent.

Regression estimates show a significant association between increased permit ownership and a drop in murder and violent crime rates. Each percentage point increase in rates of permit-holding is associated with a roughly 2.5 percent drop in the murder rate.

Concealed carry permit holders are often “the good guy with a gun,” even though they rarely receive the attention of the national media. Concealed carry permit holders were credited with saving multiple lives in:

Rockledge, Florida (2017);

Antioch, Tennessee (2017);

Arlington, Texas (2017);

Lyman, South Carolina (2016);

Winton, Ohio (2015);

Conyers, Georgia (2015);

New Holland, South Carolina (2015);

Chicago, Illinois (2015);

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2015);

Darby, Pennsylvania (2015);

Chicago, Illinois (2014);

Portland, Oregon (2014); and

Spartanburg, South Carolina (2012).

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup]💪rikki

DickD

Let's hear it from all the gun fanatics; "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." Okay, what would people do without guns, attack you with a knife? Would you rather be up against someone with a gun or a knife?



Our crazy POTUS goes around threatening everyone and calling them names, promoting violence. And Republicans support him with Moscow Mitch refusing to take a vote.



I know ya'all need a gun to protect yourself. There are more guns in Texas than almost any other state, perhaps the most. Yet, it wasn't any vigilante that stopped the gun man, it was the police.

Thewheelone

Universal background checks for any weapon purchased, recalling and banning all AR 15 style weapons and limiting magazines would be a good start. Of course it will not stop it in most of our lifetimes but maybe, just maybe future generations would have to bear less of this.

gabrielshorn2013

Wheel, UBC is a good proposal on its face. However, if you are talking about individual sales, what do you believe the level of compliance would be? How would it be enforced? Would I need a check if gifting a firearm to one of my kids? Parents? Relatives? Close friends? The devil is in the details. As for recalling modern sporting rifles, such as AR design, nope, not going to happen with over 20 million in circulation. It is now the most popular rifle in the US by sales, and every time a ban is proposed, those sales numbers go up. Even if you could get a few law abiding citizens to comply (far more won't), the criminal element certainly will not comply. Furthermore, it will lead to a very large black market on such firearms. If you propose a buyback, I would propose a minimum 10X of purchase price. Since mine was $1,200, my price would start at $12,000.

Thewheelone

Gabriel, an increased buy back price is a really good idea. Yes, I know a recall is impractical and that many would not do it, but perhaps over time and without new ones available, it might help. If the killer in Odessa did not have easy access to his weapon of choice, perhaps it would not have been so bad. Maybe an excise tax on AR 15 style weapons, so that it would be cost prohibitive for many to buy one. The criminal element do not seem to use AR 15 style guns as their weapons of choice. A concealed pistol seems to be favored which of course could account for a mass shooting, but it for real efficiency, the mass killers use something else.

gabrielshorn2013

Dick, the second part of your first sentence is factual. Guns don't fire themselves. As to your second sentence, yes, in the case of individual murders (same as in most firearm murders) a knife will do, and is the weapon of choice in countries that "banned" firearms. There were also recent episodes of mass stabbings with multiple deaths. Bombs are easy enough (see Timothy McVey). A nut in Japan killed 33 with a gallon of gas a few weeks ago. You can make a toxic brew of ammonia and bleach in a 5 gallon bucket (all available in one aisle of Home Depot). There are also clubs, poisons, and hands/ feet. See the FBI database.

DickD

But you haven't addressed the ones riding around shooting people or the ones going back to a business, from where they were fired, and shooting their ex fellow workers. We need action, not excuses.

gabrielshorn2013

So propose a solution Dick that complies with the 2nd, 4th, and 5th amendments to the Constitution. The only way around it is to repeal the 2nd amendment. You'll need 2/3 of both houses of Congress, plus ratification by 38 states to do so. You could also have a Constitutional Convention if 38 states agree. Right now there isn't the political will in the public to do so.

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