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Death Toll In West Texas Shooting Rampage Now At 7

The FBI says the shooting appears to have been perpetrated by a sole gunman and does not have any connection to terrorism.

Law enforcement officials investigate Saturday’s shooting at a shopping center Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas.

Updated on Sunday at 2:22 p.m. (CST) 

The death toll from a mass shooting carried out by a gunman in the West Texas cities of Midland and Odessa has risen from five to seven, and 22 others remain injured, officials said on Sunday.

Authorities said a man armed with an “AR-type weapon” was killed by police just moments before heading toward a crowded movie theater, preventing what investigators said could have been an even deadlier rampage.

“I have been to too many of these events,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at a media briefing about the shooting. “I’m tired of the dying of the people in the state of Texas. Too many Texans are mourning. Action is needed,” he said. “And we must do it fast.”

The shooting began after state troopers attempted to pull over a vehicle Saturday around 3:15 p.m. on a Texas interstate for failing to signal a left turn.

Police say the gunman, described as a man in his mid-30s with a history of traffic infractions, fled police and then stole a postal vehicle and began firing indiscriminately at people along the highway and streets around Midland and Odessa.

Officials in Odessa did not name any of the victims but did say that a postal worker is among the dead.

A 17-month-old girl and three law enforcement officials were among the nearly two dozen wounded. Abbott said the law enforcement officers are in stable condition.

The governor said that he has been communicating with the mother of the toddler and that the girl is expected to recover from her injuries. During the news conference, he read aloud a text message he received from the toddler’s mother.

“This is all of our worst nightmare, but thank God she is alive and relatively well,” the mother wrote to the governor. “Toddlers are funny because they could get shot and still want to run around and play.”

Christopher Combs, the FBI’s special agent in charge, said the shooting appears to have been perpetrated by a sole gunman and does not have any connection to terrorism.

Little is known about the gunman or his motivations. Police have deliberately withheld the shooter’s name.

“You’ll notice that I’m not naming the subject. And there’s a reason for that. I’m not giving him any notoriety for what he did,” said Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke.

State and federal investigators are now sifting through 15 active crime scenes that are associated with the shooting spree and are spread throughout West Texas, officials said.

“I want to express my deepest sorrow for families that have lost a loved one and for all the victims who have been wounded. The hurt you feel is incalculable, but you must hold on to the hope that you must also have,” Abbott said.

New laws that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals while also safeguarding Second Amendment rights are needed, said Abbott. “We must do it fast,” he said.

But Abbott did not outline specific legislation or policy proposals. When asked if AR-style weapons should be banned, the governor pointed out that not every mass shooting has been committed with such a weapon.

“We need solutions to keep guns out of the hands of criminals while protecting Second Amendment rights,” Abbott said.

Abbott’s comments came on the same day that eight new gun laws took effect in Texas. The laws ease restrictions on guns, permitting firearms to be carried in places of worship, during disasters and in rented and leased properties. The measures have been praised by the National Rifle Association.

Speaking from Washington on Sunday, President Trump said he is committed to stopping “the menace of mass attacks.”

“This includes strong measures to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous and deranged individuals and substantial reforms to the nation’s broken mental health system,” Trump said, noting that the administration will try to balance public safety with also trying to “protect our Second Amendment.”

Trump has given conflicting reactions in response to recent mass shootings. After back-to-back shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, left 31 people dead in early August, the president said he was looking to push for “meaningful background checks” on gun purchases. But he later backpedaled, saying existing background checks are already thorough.

As the Odessa community searches for answers about what motivated the gunman, the city’s mayor, David Turner, said in an interview with NPR that the focus needs to be on the families of victims.

“We covet everyone’s prayers for those who were injured and for those loved ones who were lost and for the community as a whole,” Turner said.

In particular, the mayor said the victim recovery effort needs to include support beyond just healing gunshot wounds.

“Physical injuries are there, but there are also emotional injuries. And so, we’ll have to watch them close,” Turner said.

The communities jolted by the massacre are in need of support right now, according to the Odessa mayor.

“In West Texas, we’re known for being strong and independent,” Turner said. “It’s time for us to come together and love on those who need our love that have lost friends and family.”

Updated on Sunday at 12:01 p.m. (CST)

The death toll from a mass shooting in the West Texas cities of Midland and Odessa has risen from five to seven, according to Odessa Mayor David Turner.

The mayor said that at least 18 remain injured — including a 17-month-old girl — following the shooting rampage that began after Texas state troopers attempted to pull over a vehicle Saturday afternoon on a Texas interstate for failing to signal a left turn.

The toddler, Turner said, is still in the hospital recovering from injuries that are “not as bad as they thought,” saying, “we are very grateful the injuries weren’t worse.”

As the community searches for answers about what motivated the gunman, the focus needs to be on the families of victims, the mayor said in an interview with NPR.

“We covet everyone’s prayers for those who were injured and for those loved ones who were lost and for the community as a whole,” Turner said.

Authorities in Texas are scheduled to hold a briefing on the shooting at noon local time to provide additional details about the incident.

Police say the gunman, described as a man in his mid-30s, fled police and then stole a postal truck and began firing indiscriminately at people along the highway and streets around Midland and Odessa.

Three law enforcement officers were wounded in the attack, and Turner said all three are in “stable”condition and still hospitalized.

“Our law enforcement are in as good condition as can be expected. Physical injuries are there, but there are also emotional injuries. And so, we’ll have to watch them close,” Turner said.

Police shot and killed the shooter outside of a movie theater in the Odessa area. The gunman’s motive has not been revealed.

The communities jolted by the massacre are in need of support right now, according to the Odessa mayor.

“In West Texas, we’re known for being strong and independent,” Turner said. “It’s time for us to come together and love on those who need are love that have lost friends and family.”

DPS troopers block the road at a shooting scene in Odessa, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019.

Updated on Saturday at 11:04 p.m. (CST)

At least five people were killed and 21 others injured in a mass shooting near the cities of Odessa and Midland — about 20 miles apart in West Texas. 

A Midland police officer, an Odessa police officer and a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper were also wounded. The trooper is in serious but stable condition, and the two other officers are in stable condition at a local hospital, DPS said. 

The incident started around 3:17 p.m. when two troopers pulled over a vehicle on Interstate 20. DPS says the driver shot one of the troopers with a rifle.

Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke said multiple people were then shot in multiple locations on 42nd Street in Odessa. 

The suspect ditched his car and hijacked a U.S. Postal Service vehicle and was firing at people, the police chief said. The shooting spree ended when the suspect was shot and killed near the Cinergy movie theater in Odessa following an exchange of gunfire with officers.  

There were initial reports of a second shooter, but there has been no confirmation of one, Chief Gerke said. 

The shooting suspect was described by police as a white male in his 30s. The man’s motive is unknown at this time. 

Odessa-based Medical Center Health System CEO Russell Tippin said 13 people admitted to the hospital have been released. He said seven people are in critical condition and two people are in serious condition. “This is a scary incident and nobody is guaranteed tomorrow,” Tippin said, urging people to pray for the community. 

The hospital remains on lockdown for the safety of its staff, Tippin said. Grief counselors and social workers are being made available to families.

The ATF and FBI are deploying teams to the area. Attorney General William Barr says he is monitoring the situation. President Donald Trump said in a tweet he was briefed by the attorney general. 

Gov. Greg Abbott said he and the first lady offered their “unwavering support” to the victims and their families.

“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,” he said in a statement. His office said he would be traveling to Odessa on Sunday. 

This story has been updated.

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