(ODESSA, Texas) — Seven people were killed and at least 22 others injured when a gunman armed with an AR-type assault rifle went on a rampage in Odessa and Midland in Western Texas on Saturday before he was shot to death in a gunfight with police, according to authorities.
The latest mass shooting in America came exactly four weeks after 22 people were gunned down at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and another nine people killed the next day by another gunman in Dayton, Ohio.
The suspect in Odessa, whose name has yet to be released by officials, allegedly launched the mass shooting after getting pulled over by police for a minor traffic violation, officials said. He then drove around in his vehicle randomly firing at victims in more than 15 different locations, including a car dealership and a movie theater, police said.
The victims killed ranged in age from 15 to 57, and Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke said on Sunday that the carnage could have been much worse had police not killed him before he got inside a crowded movie theater.
“He showed up at a movie theater, which would tend to show his motive,” Gerke said.
The chief declined to identify the suspect during the news conference, saying, “I’m not going to give him any notoriety for what he did.”
He told reported the suspect’s name would be released soon, but not in a public forum.
Gerke said that among the 22 people injured were three law enforcement officers and a 17-month-old girl.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lamented having to go to another “shattered” Texas town to discuss a mass shooting, saying, “Too many Texans are dying.”
During the news conference, Abbott read a text message from the mother of the toddler who was wounded in the rampage.
“This is all of our worst nightmare,” the mother wrote in the text, according to Abbott. “But thank God she is alive and relatively well.”
The mother said her daughter suffered injuries to her lip, teeth and tongue, and shrapnel wounds to her chest.
“She’s having surgery tomorrow to remove the shrapnel from her chest and to fix her lip and mouth and to get a better look at her tongue,” the mother wrote. “We are thanking God for healing her and appreciate continued prayers.”
Police initially said five people were killed, but that number included the shooter. On Sunday, Gerke said the number of people allegedly killed by the gunman rose overnight from four to seven.
“It should have been a great day, a long holiday weekend,” Gerke said. “Instead, it was a little after 3 in the afternoon we had something happen that we’d never wish on anyone.”
The shootings unfolded just at 3:15 p.m. local time when a Texas Department of Public Safety officer pulled the suspect’s gold Honda over for failing signal before making a turn, Gerke said.
As the officer approached the Honda, the suspect opened fire without warning, wounding the officer, who later underwent surgery and remained hospitalized on Sunday, officials said.
Christopher Combs, special agent in charge of the FBI field office in San Antonio, said the weapon used in the shooting was an AR-type rifle. He said it remained under investigation how the suspect obtained the weapon.
Gerke said that after the suspect, described as white and in his 30s, shot the trooper, he fled along Interstate 20 toward Odessa, targeting people more than 15 different locations.
When he reached 42nd Street in Odessa, he opened fire again, wounding several more people, authorities added.
As police from multiple agencies scrambled to stop the rolling rampage, authorities mistakenly thought there were two gunmen after the suspect ditched his vehicle and allegedly carjacked a U.S. Postal Service van, officials said.
The alleged killer then sped toward the Cinergy center, a local entertainment complex that includes a cineplex and a laser-tag range.
Meztli Sanchez told ABC News that she was playing laser-tag with her 7-year-old son, when people rushed into the indoor range, screaming that the shooter was outside.
Sanchez said she, her son and other panicked patrons ran to the rear of the cineplex, where some ran into a field as more gunfire broke out.
“I grabbed my son and put him behind me and held him against the wall until the shooting stopped,” Sanchez told ABC News on Sunday morning when she returned to Cinergy center to pick up her truck, which she left in the parking lot.
A cellphone video taken by a witness showed the suspect speeding toward the cineplex in the postal van before a police officer in a marked SUV rammed the van on the driver’s side, causing it to spin out and stop. Within seconds, police open fire on the van, killing the driver inside.
The suspect was shot and killed by responding officers after he rammed at least one patrol cars with the stolen mail van, police said.
The motive for the shooting is under investigation, police said.
A Midland police officer was also shot and underwent surgery, Morales said.
The three injured officers suffered non-life-threatening wounds, officials said.
Midland Memorial Hospital received six patients and another 13 patients were taken to Medical Health Center, according to the hospital’s president, Russell Tippin.
Three of shooting victims died after being taken to hospitals, officials said.
Cinergy Entertainment, the entertainment center where the rampage came to an end, released a statement on Twitter calling the shooting a “senseless tragedy.”
“The safety of our team members and guests are our top priority and we are extremely grateful for the swift response from local authorities & first responders,” the statement read.
“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,” Gov. Abbott said in an earlier statement.
“We will not allow the Lone Star State to be overrun by hatred and violence. We will unite, as Texans always do, to respond to this tragedy,” he added. “We offer our unwavering support to the victims, their families, and all the people of Midland and Odessa.”
President Donald Trump tweeted that he’s been briefed by the attorney general.
“FBI and Law Enforcement is fully engaged,” he tweeted. “More to follow.”
The shooting came a day before eight new laws that ease restrictions on guns went into the effect in Texas, including prohibiting landlords from banning tenants from having guns in their apartments and allowing people licensed to carry concealed weapons to have firearms in churches and other places of worship.
The Odessa-Midland rampage was the fifth mass shooting in Texas since September 2017 that have left a combined 72 people dead and 78 wounded.
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