(ODESSA, TX) — Citizens in T-shirts reading “Permian Basin Strong” descended on a vigil in Odessa, Texas, Sunday night one day after a man opened fire on residents while driving across multiple towns in western Texas. Seven people were killed and over 20 injured before the shooter was finally gunned down by police officers outside a movie theater.
“We’re a very friendly community, we’re also a very tight community, because being an oil field you see the ups, you see the downs and so you have to be close,” said Odessa Mayor David Turner, who was in attendance for the candlelight vigil. “And I believe that’s going to get us through, fortunately. We are going to have to mourn for a week or so, and then we’re going to have to continue to love on those individuals to make sure they realize they have people that care.”
Three police officers were among the injured, but none were considered life-threatening. A 17-month-old child was also shot, and was expected to undergo another surgery.
Many of those in attendance at the vigil, held inside the quad at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, drew Bible verses or messages of support in chalk on the blacktop nearby.
“When we were singing ‘Amazing Grace’ I went to hold my phone up and tears came to my eyes because I thought, ‘Oh my god.’ I realized what we were standing there for — the tragedy that hit our community,” said Donna Belt, from Odessa. “And so we have to pray now for the trauma to be broken all through the city, for the Lord to heal the wounds.”
The Collinsworth family was one of many who had turned out for the Sunday evening vigil.
“When it happened, like in El Paso, Ohio and other communities, you feel for them, you pray for them, but when it hits home, it hits home,” Cindy Collinsworth, of Odessa, told ABC News.
“I’m writing ‘Love not hate,’ because I feel like all of this is kind of reckless, what that guy did,” said her daughter Kahlen Collinsworth. “I was worried for all my friends, and everybody else that was involved with it.”
Portraits of some of the victims also began to emerge on Sunday, including Mary Granados, 29, who was shot by the suspect while he hijacked her U.S. Postal Service vehicle.
“I’m not doing too good,” her twin sister, Rosie Granados, told ABC News. “I’m still suffering so much from her having to leave this way. She left so soon and she was too young.”
“She was such a beautiful person. She was nice, she was friendly. She would always smile, and she would help everybody that she had around her,” she added. “We would always have good times and she had so many friends and I just can’t think of anybody who she wouldn’t get along with.”
Also among the dead was 15-year-old Leilah Hernandez, who had just celebrated her quinceañera three months ago, according to The Associated Press. She was shot in the parking lot of a car dealership.
Edwin Peregrino was also among those killed, the AP reported. He was shot in his parents’ front yard as the suspect drove by.
“From the very core of my being I am sorry,” Turner said of those in his community dealing with the trauma. “You’re not by yourself on an island; you have a community that cares. We’re going to be here. We’ve already had people step up, pay for the funerals for these individuals. … The outpouring from the state of Texas has been amazing. In Texas, we always call it the greatest state. It’s not the state, it’s the people, and people are coming together and offering resources. But really the thing we covet most is prayer.”
Turner took issue with making gun control the focal point of the conversation, though.
“The guns are a small part of it. The biggest problem we see are the hearts of individuals,” he said. “This problem needs to address mental illness; it also needs to address violence in movies, violence in video games. Video games now are more violent than any movies we saw when I was a kid. But you’re seeing younger and younger people step into this violence. And so I think this is a broader issue than just gun control.”
“I don’t care what the reason is — he shot people from my city,” he continued. “I’m going to take care of this city right now. The politics I don’t care about. I need to love on these people.”
Police named the suspect Saturday as Seth Aaron Ator, 36, of Odessa, who began his shooting spree after getting pulled over for a minor traffic violation. Officials are still not sure why he began firing at people after being stopped by police.
“The motive, it was not terrorism, it was not something that was planned,” Turner said. “I think, just from my opinion, that person had problems, ya know. Personally, I don’t care if he had problems. He shouldn’t have hurt my citizens.”
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