Police say they are not sure why a man with a misdemeanor on his record and no warrant for his arrest erupted in a spate of violence after a routine traffic stop in West Texas, killing seven, including a man slain outside his parents’ home and a teenager fatally shot as she left a car dealership with her family.

Authorities said Seth Aaron Ator, 36, also injured 22 people Saturday before officers killed him outside a busy movie theater in Odessa.

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.

Los Angeles-based artists Noah Reich, right, and David Maldonado, behind the tree, hang a heart-shaped sign on a tree outside a benefit concert by Khalid for the Walmart shooting victims in El Paso, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. (Mark Lambie/The El Paso Times via AP)
Los Angeles-based artists Noah Reich, right, and David Maldonado, behind the tree, hang a heart-shaped sign on a tree outside a benefit concert by Khalid for the Walmart shooting victims in El Paso, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. (Mark Lambie/The El Paso Times via AP)

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.”

Katelyn Cooper pets a comfort dog during a vigil, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, in Odessa, Texas, for victims of a shooting spree the day before. (Jacy Lewis/Reporter-Telegram via AP)
Katelyn Cooper pets a comfort dog during a vigil, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, in Odessa, Texas, for victims of a shooting spree the day before. (Jacy Lewis/Reporter-Telegram via AP)

Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke said there were still no answers pointing to a motive for the chaotic attacks, which began 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.

People attend a vigil for victims of a shooting spree the day before, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, in Odessa, Texas. (Jacy Lewis/Reporter-Telegram via AP)
People attend a vigil for victims of a shooting spree the day before, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, in Odessa, Texas. (Jacy Lewis/Reporter-Telegram via AP)

“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.

Celeste Lujan, left, and Yasmin Natera hold a sign in honor of Leilah Hernandez during a vigil for victims of the shooting spree the day before, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin quad, in Odessa, Texas. (Jacy Lewis/Reporter-Telegram via AP)
Celeste Lujan, left, and Yasmin Natera hold a sign in honor of Leilah Hernandez during a vigil for victims of the shooting spree the day before, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin quad, in Odessa, Texas. (Jacy Lewis/Reporter-Telegram via AP)

The shooting came at the end of an already violent month in Texas, where on Aug. 3 a gunman in the border city of El Paso killed 22 people at a Walmart. Sitting beside authorities in Odessa, Texas Gov. Greg 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.”

Mira Marquez, of Midland, Texas, folds her hands in prayer during a prayer service, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas, for the victims of a shooting spree the day before. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Mira Marquez, of Midland, Texas, folds her hands in prayer during a prayer service, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas, for the victims of a shooting spree the day before. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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.”

Midland, Texas, Mayor Jerry Morales, left, embraces Odessa, Texas, Mayor David Turner following a news conference at the University of Texas Permian Basin in Odessa, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. (Ryan Michalesko/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Midland, Texas, Mayor Jerry Morales, left, embraces Odessa, Texas, Mayor David Turner following a news conference at the University of Texas Permian Basin in Odessa, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. (Ryan Michalesko/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

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?”

A sidewalk is filled with chalk messages following a prayer service, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas, for the victims of a shooting spree the day before. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
A sidewalk is filled with chalk messages following a prayer service, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas, for the victims of a shooting spree the day before. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Dancer Maisha Morris dances during a memorial prayer service, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas, for the victims of a shooting spree the day before. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Dancer Maisha Morris dances during a memorial prayer service, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas, for the victims of a shooting spree the day before. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
People attend a memorial service for the victims of a shooting spree the day before, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
People attend a memorial service for the victims of a shooting spree the day before, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
A woman reaches for a bunch of flowers during a memorial service for the victims of Saturday's shootings at a memorial service Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
A woman reaches for a bunch of flowers during a memorial service for the victims of Saturday’s shootings at a memorial service Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Law enforcement officials process the crime scene Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas, from Saturday's shooting which ended with the alleged shooter being shot dead by police in a stolen mail van, right. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Law enforcement officials process the crime scene Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas, from Saturday’s shooting which ended with the alleged shooter being shot dead by police in a stolen mail van, right. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Hundreds of West Texas residents attend a vigil for those killed in a mass shooting on Saturday. (Sept. 2)
Hundreds of West Texas residents attend a vigil for those killed in a mass shooting on Saturday. (Sept. 2)

Tags: Categories: U.S. Texas