Texas Rangers report reveals new details in August 31, 2019 mass murder

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ODESSA, Texas (NEXTSAR)- On August 31, 2019, area law enforcement agencies responded to the Midland/Odessa area in response to emergency calls as a then-unknown gunman drove through both communities shooting innocent bystanders. In about an hour’s time, seven people were killed, three law enforcement officers were shot and wounded, at least 21 others were wounded, and one suspect was left dead. 

Now, the Texas Rangers have released the final report into the shooting investigation. The report sheds new light on previously scattered and confused reports about the shooter’s path. 

The original call to police

Around 1:27 p.m. on that August day, officers with the Odessa Police Department responded to a disturbance call at Journey Oilfield, located at 2200 E Murphy Street. Employees at the business told OPD a recently fired employee had refused to hand over company property after being terminated. That employee was identified as Seth Aaron Ator. Employees told police Ator rammed his vehicle through a chain link fence and exited the property before police arrived. After responding to the business, police called Ator on the phone where he talked about paranoid delusions and conspiracy theories centered around child pornography and online impersonations. According to the report, at that time, Ator made no claims that he was planning on shooting anyone. Shortly after speaking with police, Ator tried to contact his employer by phone, that call was blocked by the employer. 

Moments later, emergency dispatch began receiving calls that a man driving a car matching that of Ator’s was driving recklessly along West Loop 338. Callers told 911 operators the man was displaying a rifle. 

Police remained at Journey Oilfield in case Ator came back to target the business. 

The shooting begins

Around 3:17 p.m., about 13.5 miles from Journey Oilfield, two Texas State toppers initiated a traffic stop with Ator in Midland County near Interstate 20 and West Loop 250. The troopers were unaware of the initial disturbance call. The troopers tried to pull Ator over for failing to signal, the report says. As Ator entered onto IH-20’s westbound lanes using the westbound on-ramp west of Loop 250, Ator fired multiple shots from a rifle through the back window of his car and into the front windshield of the marked patrol car. Trooper Charles Pryor was shot in the face and seriously injured. Trooper Melina Justiss returned fire, striking Ator’s car. The troopers were unable to pursue the vehicle as Ator drove away due to the serious injuries sustained by Pryor. 

The shooting continues

The report goes on to say as Ator drove west along I-20, Ator called 911 on multiple occasions communicating with 911 operators as he drove alongside drivers and shot through the sides of their vehicles. 

The following victims were on I-20 at the time they were shot: Raul Garcia, Rodolfo Julio Arco, Brad Wayne Grimsley, Marco Corral, Efe Obayagbona, Fatai Quadri, Timothy Hardaway, Joseph Glide, and Daniel Munoz. Both Garcia and Arco later died from their injuries. 

911 operators later told investigators Ator taunted them over the phone about what he was doing as he shot at those driving near him. 

After Ator entered Odessa city limits, he turned north on East Loop 338. At that time, Ator ended his calls with 911. On Loop 338, Ator shot Anthony Gonzalez and Glenda Dempsey. 

Ator then crossed under State Highway 191 and turned into a commercial parking lot. As Ator entered the 191 N Service Road from the parking lot, he shot Marian Encinosa Boado. Ator then drove north on E Loop 338, then turned around on the loop, just north of TX-191. Ator then drove west on 191 and entered a commercial parking lot where he shot and killed Leilah Hernandez and injured her brother Nathan. 

Afterward, Ator entered Preston Smith Road and turned west on 191 where he shot Krystal Lee, Coltyn Reyenga, Robert Cavazos, and Anderson Lee Davis. Ator then turned south on JBS Parkway from 191 where he shot Lilia Davis, Larry Shores and Timothy Beard. 

Ator then made his way to a residential neighborhood where the shooting resumed. 

While driving on E 38th Street at Dixie Boulevard, Ator shot Wanda Silvas. Then, he stopped drove his car south on Adams Street where he stopped next to Mary Granados where she was temporarily parked in her USPS van. While parked, Ator shot at a passing motorist and then grabbed Granados from her van and shot her in the head. The report says Ator shot the USPS worker twice before leaving in her vehicle. 

He then drove to Walnut Avenue and East 38th Street where he shot Edwin Peregrino and Jesus Rogelio Alvidrez before driving away from the area in the USPS van. Peregrino died at the scene, according to earlier reports. 

The shooting comes to an end

For several minutes, Ator drove the stolen van through parts of west and north Odessa without shooting at anyone, according to the report. Eventually, he drove to north Yukon Road where he shot and killed Kameron Brown, who was stopped at a red light at Yukon and Grandview Avenue. Ator then turned south onto Faudree Road where he shot and killed Joe Griffith who was stopped at a traffic light. Griffith was sitting in his car with his family when he was shot. 

Ator then turned onto the S Service Road of TX-191 where he shot Coy Edge. 

Then, Ator made his way to the area near Cinergy Theater along 191. The theater had just been evacuated by law enforcement. As Ator neared the theater, he drove through the parking lot of Medical Center’s ProCare building off 191 where he exchanged gunfire with Midland Police officer Zahary Owens. Owens, who was driving his patrol car into the parking lot from Dr. Emmitt Headlee Street, was badly injured. Ator then shot at OPD officer James Santana who was driving his patrol car just behind Owens. 

Ator then turned east onto Headlee Street where he was chased by law enforcement. 

Trooper Justin Basso fired several rifle shots through the windshield of his own patrol car into the back of the van. Police say Ator then began driving “aggressively” toward a police roadblock that was shielding theater evacuees. 

OPD officer Kaaiko Vavao and MPD officer Addisson Prater used their patrol cars to create a roadblock in front of Ator. The report says as Ator closed in on their positions, the officers employed two different tactics to counter his assault. Vavao fired multiple rifle shots into the windshield of the USPS van as Prater aligned his patrol vehicle to strike and deflect Ator’s vehicle before it could slam full force into Vavao’s unit.

After Ator was killed, police secured the area. 

Amid the chaos

“This unprecedented act of random mobile violence created a huge challenge to law enforcement officers and emergency medical responders as they tried to locate, contain, and stop the violence, while simultaneously dealing with the dead, dying, wounded, panic-stricken, and oblivious people they came across. The sheer number of 911 calls, understandably, overwhelmed 911 communication operators with information about multiple locations, multiple and greatly differing suspect descriptions and suspect vehicle descriptions. Social media posts and personal communications flooded the area with unconfirmed and unsubstantiated rumors of violence at multiple locations in Odessa and Midland that were never targets of violence. Law enforcement officers had to respond to these alleged sites of active violence at locations such as department stores, shopping malls, etc. Many factors culminated into an approximate hour-long delay in overall situational awareness, after Ator was killed, before law enforcement could determine that Ator had acted alone. Emergency services transitioned from stopping the violence to locating and treating the wounded and identifying and protecting crime scenes. Throughout the night of, medical treatment and scene containment were prioritized as emergency resources and personnel were routed to the area from all over Texas and the United States,” the report concludes. 

You can view a digital map of events here.

At the time of his death, police say Ator was armed with one semi-automatic .223 caliber rifle and had around 58 unfired cartridges remaining. 

An autopsy revealed the shooter was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of his spree. 

Research into the shooter’s past revealed multiple interventions with law enforcement. Some of those events resulted in mental health evaluations and forced commitments for periods of up to 90 days. 

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