Seth Ator has been identified as the gunman who was shot and killed by police after a rampage in Odessa and Midland, Texas, according to the Odessa Police Department. Police said Ator, 36, was taken down by officers at the Cinergy movie complex in Odessa. The incident began around 3:15 p.m. local time on Saturday, August 31, as an attempted traffic stop along Interstate 20.
Police had originally been looking for two potential gunmen. But after Ator was shot, officials stated that there was no longer a threat of an active shooter. Investigators now say they are confident Ator acted alone.
Seven victims were killed in Saturday’s rampage, plus the shooter, according to federal officials. More than 20 others were injured, several critically. Three law enforcement officers who were injured, including the state trooper who was shot during the traffic stop, are expected to recover.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Seth Ator Was Fired From His Job Before the Shooting Rampage & Called the FBI; He Previously Failed a Background Check to Purchase a Gun Due to a History of Mental Health Issues
Seth Ator worked as a truck driver, but he lost his job a few hours before the shooting rampage on August 31 began. Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke confirmed to media that Ator was fired from Journey Oilfield Services the morning of the shooting. Both Ator and the company called police after Ator was let go. Officers responded but Ator had already left the company by the time they arrived.
Ator also made a call to the FBI. Agent Christopher Combs, as reported by USA Today, said that Ator’s call to the FBI tip line included “rambling statements about some of the atrocities that he felt that he had gone through.” The traffic stop on Interstate 20 happened shortly after the firing and the calls to police and law enforcement.
CBS reported that, according to FBI agent Combs, Ator had been “on a long spiral down” and that Ator’s mental state was questionable. He added, “He didn’t wake up Saturday morning and go into his company and then it happened. He went to that company in trouble and had probably been in trouble for a while.”
We’ve also since learned that Ator failed a background check to purchase a gun in 2014 in Texas. ABC News, citing law enforcement sources, reported that Ator had been flagged by the state and prohibited from owning a weapon “because he was diagnosed as being mentally ill.” CNN’s Jim Sciutto is also reporting that Ator had previously been “temporarily committed to an institution in McLennan County.”
Officials say Ator purchased the AR-style weapon used in the attacks through a private sale. Those sellers are not legally obligated to run a background check. Governor Greg Abbott first confirmed on September 2 that Ator “”didn’t go thru a background check for the gun he used in Odessa.”
2. A Neighbor Says Seth Ator Threatened Her With a Rifle Weeks Before the Shooting; Another Neighbor Claimed Ator ‘Didn’t Bother Anybody’
FBI agents executed a search warrant at Seth Ator’s home on September 1, KMID-TV reported.
Property records in Ector County show that Ator purchased a lot on Cavalli Circle in Odessa in January of 2018. The land has a market value of $9,260. Officials have since confirmed that Ator was living in a metal shack on the property. The public record is available here.
We’ve also included a map of the L.A.M. subdivision, which is where Ator’s property was located. He lived on Lot 17. If you look at the map on the left side of the document, Lot 17 is located on the right-hand side of the subdivision map, toward the bottom.
The address listed on Ector County’s website does not come up on Google maps. Heavy reached out to a nearby business called JH Safety & Trucking to ask about Cavalli Circle and whether the area was commercial or residential.
The man who answered the phone, who did not wish to be identified by name, described the street as a relatively new development in west Texas. He explained that the area had originally comprised of mobile homes but that businesses have been moving in recently. The man confirmed that Seth Ator lived there, referring to Ator as his neighbor. He said the shooting had left him stunned because Ator had been a quiet person who “didn’t bother anybody.”
He further explained that Cavalli Circle has security cameras “all over the yard” and that the FBI agents had asked him questions about Ator as they executed the search warrant.
A second neighbor shared a very different memory of Ator. Veronica Alonzo told CNN that Ator yelled at her a few weeks prior to the shooting “for leaving trash in a nearby dumpster.” Alonzo said Ator approached her home while holding a rifle. She explained that she called police after that incident, but that no officers showed up due to the difficulty of finding the street. She said the address doesn’t come up on GPS.
Alonzo added that she had seen Ator fire his weapon at animals from his home at night. She also told CNN that Ator’s home did not have running water or electricity.
Another neighbor, Rocio Gutierrez, also told the Associated Press that Ator used to shoot at animals from his property. He described Ator as “a violent, aggressive person.”
3. Seth Ator Pleaded Guilty to Criminal Charges in a 2001 Case
Odessa Police were asked during Sunday’s press conference if the gunman had a prior arrest history. They answered at the time that the suspect had prior cases that had come up during a search of his driver’s license.
According to a statewide criminal history search on the Texas Department of Public Safety’s website, Seth Ator was charged with “Criminal Trespass” on August 3, 2001, in McLennan County, Texas. It was a Class B Misdemeanor.
He was then charged with a second offense for Evading Arrest. The record shows that Ator issued a guilty plea in February of 2002 and received a sentence of 24 months on probation. The site does not provide further details as to what prompted the arrest.
The case was listed as a “deferred adjudication.” In the state of Texas, it’s a type of probation in which the conviction is kept off the defendant’s criminal record.
A search of Seth Ator’s name on a separate national database does not bring up any past federal charges.
4. Records Indicate Seth Ator’s Parents Live in San Antonio; Ator Reportedly Graduated From Lorena High School in Central-Eastern Texas in 2000
A search of Texas’ birth index shows that Seth Ator was born on September 27, 1982. KVII-TV reported that Ator was born in Potter County and lived in Amarillo as a child.
ABC affiliate KXXV-TV cited “people who knew” Ator while he was living in Lorena as a teenager. The TV station reported that Ator graduated from Lorena High School in 2000.
His parents were listed as Debra Sue Warren and Denis Keith Ator. Ator’s parents were married in 1978 and divorced in 1987, according to records via the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The San Antonio Express-News reported that Ator’s parents appear to live together in west San Antonio. A reporter for the newspaper knocked on the front door. Someone was heard saying through the door, “No comment, no trespassing, go away” but did not open the door.
Records show that Ator also has one sister, Elissa Breanne Ator. She reportedly passed away in 2015 according to this notice in the Daily Court Review.
5. Seth Ator Was Armed With an Assault-Style Rifle In His Vehicle
Police say the shootings began during a traffic stop on Interstate 20 westbound near mile marker 131. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the driver was in a gold vehicle. The car was still moving when the gunman, now identified as Seth Ator, “pointed a rifle toward the rear window of his car and fired several shots toward the DPS patrol unit.” Officials shared during a press conference Sunday afternoon that the weapon was an AR-style rifle.
One of the two troopers was shot and Ator sped away from the scene. Police have confirmed that Ator was pulled over for a traffic violation, specifically for a “failure to signal.” Officials added that there was not an active warrant for Ator at the time of the traffic stop.
Odessa Police said Ator continued to fire from his moving vehicle at random people as he drove through Midland and Odessa. He shot a civilian at east Loop 338 and I-20, then headed through the city of Odessa and kept firing.
Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke explained that Ator abandoned his original vehicle and hijacked a United States Postal Service mail truck. The mail carrier who had been operating the truck was identified as Mary Granados. She was shot and killed.
Ator then made his way toward a movie complex called Cinergy on Highway 191 in Odessa. Officers cornered him in the parking lot at the theater. A gun battle ensued and Ator was shot and killed by officers at the scene.
Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke initially confirmed Saturday evening that at least five people were dead in the shooting rampage and that least another 20 people had been injured. Overnight, the death toll rose to include 7 victims plus the shooter.
The injured included a baby girl named Anderson Davis. She was struck in the face by a bullet fragment and is recovering.
Police confirmed that three members of law enforcement were among those hurt, including a Midland officer, an Odessa officer, and a trooper from the Department of Public Safety. The Chief said that their injuries were not life-threatening. The Midland officer was identified as Zack Owens. He was shot multiple times in the arm and hand.
The CEO of Medical Center Health Systems, Russell Tippin, explained that area hospitals remained on lockdown Saturday evening as a precaution.
The immediate investigation on August 31 was fluid and appeared to be chaotic. Initial reports began with witnesses describing on social media that they had seen a gunman open fire along I-20 between Odessa and Midland.
The Midland Police department later confirmed that they were looking for two suspects. They believed one was driving a small gold-colored Toyota vehicle, while a second was driving a stolen mail truck. Police warned that one suspect was “believed to be at the Cinergy in Midland and the other [was] believed to be driving on Loop 250 in Midland.”
However, it turned out that Seth Ator was acting alone. Chief Gerke told reporters that there were no additional victims after Ator was shot and killed at Cinergy, leading police to conclude that the threat was over and that there was only one shooter.
The Midland Police also responded to reports of an active shooter at the Home Depot in Odessa. Officers urged people to avoid the area while the threat was investigated and to remain inside their homes.
As the afternoon continued, the attention was focused on the Cinergy movie theater and the reports of a possible second suspect driving a gold-colored truck. Police did not issue updates about the Home Deport aspect. But a spokesperson for Home Depot later confirmed to Heavy that “there was not a shooting in our store in Odessa (or Midland).”
The rampage in Odessa and Midland marks the second mass shooting in Texas within the space of just four weeks. The attack in El Paso, in which a gunman claimed the lives of 22 people at a Walmart, happened on August 3.
Federal officials were offering their assistance as local police began the in-depth investigation into the deadly shootings in western Texas. The ATF shared that agents from its Dallas office were responding, as well as agents from the FBI Dallas office.
On Sunday morning, President Trump praised law enforcement and first responders in Texas. He also denounced the gunman as “another very sick person.” Vice President Pence spoke with reporters Saturday night and stressed that the “full resources of the federal government” were on-site in Texas to offer assistance.
Other politicians weighed in on the attack. Senator John Cornyn of Texas posted online, “Tonight we are one with the entire Midland-Odessa community, especially the victims of this horrific tragedy. I want to thank law enforcement and first responders for their courage in an impossible situation.”
Former San Antonio mayor and presidential candidate Julian Castro called for strengthening gun laws in an interview with MSNBC.
Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who is from the El Paso area and was especially vocal after the mass shooting there earlier in August, didn’t hold back about Odessa either. He posted a video of himself speaking to a group of voters in Virginia, in which he stated, “We don’t know the motivation. But here’s what we do know: This is f*cked up.”