Police: 21 People Shot, 5 Killed in Mass Shooting in Odessa and Midland, Texas

At least 21 people were shot and five killed in a mass shooting in and around the cities of Odessa and Midland, Texas, Saturday afternoon.

Police later confirmed that the shooter, a white man in his mid-30s, had been killed by officers at the Cinergy movie theater in Odessa.

The shootings sent the two neighboring west Texas cities into chaos as police hunted for the gunman. Businesses and hospitals went into lockdown. The gunman apparently switched vehicles, hijacking a USPS mail van during his rampage, leaving police to initially report that there were two shooters roaming the area. They later clarified that there was only one gunman.

Here’s what we know so far.

What happened in Midland and Odessa?

Odessa Police Chief Mike Gerke said that the incident began when the suspect was pulled over for a traffic stop by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper about 3:15 p.m. Central Time. The suspect shot the trooper and fled in a gold-colored Honda.

The traffic stop happened on Interstate 20, the highway that connects Midland and Odessa. At least one other person was shot on I-20, police said.

Gerke said the gunman then shot multiple people on 42nd Street in Odessa.

At some point, the gunman hijacked a U.S. Postal Service van. Gerke said the believes the postal employee is among the victims.

In this image made from video provided by Dustin Fawcett, police officers guard a street in Odessa, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019.
In this image made from video provided by Dustin Fawcett, police officers guard a street in Odessa, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. Dustin Fawcett—AP

Midland and Odessa (cities of about 140,000 and 100,000 people, respectively), are about 20 miles apart, connected by Interstate 20. They are about 240 miles east of El Paso, where a gunman targeting Hispanic victims killed 22 people at a Walmart on Aug. 3.

“This was a joint effort by a multitude of departments to find this animal and bring him to justice,” Gerke said at a later press conference.

How did people respond to the mass shooting?

Multiple businesses, offices and dorms at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin were put on lockdown during the shooting, according to local news station CBS 7. Music City Mall in Odessa, Texas was closed during the shooting, with CBS 7 reporting a chaotic scene as police worked to clear the area.

About 5:30 p.m., anchors at CBS 7 in Odessa were told “we’ve gotta go” and left a live shot following reports of people running through the Music City Mall, where the TV news studios are located. The anchors left the live shot, but continued to broadcast off screen. They later returned on air, but were told once again that they had to evacuate after multiple officers enter the studio. CBS 7 reported officers were going store-to-store in the mall, clearing the building.

Midlands Police Department had initially reported that a Home Depot store had been the site of one of the shootings, although the company said in a statement to TIME that none of its stores had been the site of a shooting.

Reached at 6:45 p.m. EST, Madison Tate, director of marketing and community relations at the Odessa Regional Medical Center, could not confirm whether patients had been sent to their hospital but said the hospital was on lockdown along with the rest of the city.

Police and sheriff's deputies surround the area behind the Cinergy movie theater in Odessa, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, after reports of gunfire.
Police and sheriff’s deputies surround the area behind the Cinergy movie theater in Odessa, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, after reports of gunfire. Tim Fischer—Midland Reporter-Telegram/AP

Who is the mass shooter in Midland and Odessa?

The shooter has not yet been identified, although Gerke said that he is a white man in his mid-30s.

The El Paso department/branch of the FBI said just before 6:30 p.m. Central that “it is too soon to know motive or the identity of the suspect.”

Police had initially said the shooter or shooters were believed to be shooting people from two separate vehicles — a hijacked U.S. Postal Service van and a small “gold/white” Toyota truck, according to the Midland Police Department. Police later said the two vehicles were associated with the same person.

Gerke said police have since received additional unverified reports about an active shooter, “which is to be expected because our citizens are a little jumpy after this,” but noted these reports were not confirmed. He added that “once this individual was taken out of the picture, there have been no more victims.”

Police declined to comment on the type of weapon used during the shooting, though earlier statements had cited a rifle.

Who are the victims?

There 21 shooting victims, Gerke said. As of 7:30 p.m. Central, it is unclear whether the five people who were killed are included in that number.

Russell Tippin, CEO and president of the Medical Center Health System, confirmed that 14 victims were inside Medical Center Hospital but did not note the ages or conditions of any patients.

A local news station, NewsWest9, has reported that one of the victims is a 17-month-old baby, who was transported to the hospital after being shot in the face.

The suspect injured police from three different agencies–– officers from the Odessa Police Department and Midland Police Department, and a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper.

How are politicians responding to the shooting in Midland and Odessa?

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement that he and the First Lady were “heartbroken over this senseless and cowardly attack.” He thanked first responders for their quick action.

“I want to remind all Texans that we will not allow the Lone Star State to be overrun by hatred and violence,” Abbott said. “We will unite, as Texans always do, to respond to this tragedy.”

President Donald Trump said on Twitter that Attorney General William Barr had briefed him on the shooting, and that the FBI and law enforcement are “fully engaged.”

Attorney General for Texas, Ken Paxton, said in a statement that he was “horrified to see such a senseless act terrorize the fine people of the Permian basin” and thanked first responders for their response.

Former Texas congressman and 2020 Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, whose hometown of El Paso was devastated by the Aug. 3 mass shooting, spoke out about gun control measures from the campaign trail in Virginia.

“We don’t know how many have been shot. We don’t know how many people have been killed, the condition of those who have survived. Do not yet know what the motivation is, do not yet know the firearms that were used or how they acquired them. We do know this is f—-d up,” O’Rourke said.

“We do know this has to stop in this county. There is no reason that we have to accept this as our fortune, as our future, as our fate.”

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