Mass shooting in Midland-Odessa: Five dead, 21 wounded, shooter killed

Texas Tribune News

An Ector County Police Sheriff vehicle.
An Ector County Police Sheriff vehicle.
Rafael Aguilera for The Texas Tribune

At least five people were killed and 21 others were injured in shootings near Midland and Odessa Saturday, police confirmed. The alleged shooter was shot and killed at Cinergy Cinemas in Odessa.

The suspect was a white man in his mid-30s. In a news conference Saturday afternoon, Chief Michael Gerke of the Odessa Police Department said the shooting began around 3 p.m. after a traffic stop. When a trooper tried to pull over the gunman, he shot the trooper who pulled him over and began shooting people at random, Gerke said.

The shooter eventually ditched his car, hijacked a U.S. Postal Service vehicle and continued to open fire, Gerke said. Two law enforcement officers were injured.

“Please understand this is not just an Odessa Police Department, Midland Police Department and Department of Public Safety thing,” Gerke said during a press conference. “This was a joint effort by a multiple of departments to find this animal and bring him to justice.”

Gerke said reports of a second gunman were unconfirmed. He said while officials “believe we have the threat contained … I can’t be 1,000 percent sure of that.”

Midland Mayor Jerry Morales told the New York Times that the shooter targeted Interstate 20 and Highway 191. During the shooting, the Texas Department of Public Safety encouraged people in Midland, Odessa and Big Spring to remain indoors.

At a press conference from Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, CEO Russell Tippin said they had 14 victims in the hospital. Grief counseling is being provided and a team of nurses is reuniting families in a designated area, he said. Tippin said the hospital was “stable and secure” and that all the locations were locked down for the safety of the staff and victims.

“We have 14 victims in the hospital. Not ready to discuss ages,” Tippin said. “Pray for the victims. If you hear my voice, hug your families.”

A DPS official told MSNBC that all shootings, or reports of shootings, took place outside of buildings. According to officials, the shooting started in Midland and then proceeded to Odessa.

Prior to the suspect’s death, Midland police posted a warning on the department’s Facebook page: “A subject (possibly 2) is currently driving around Odessa shooting at random people. At this time there are multiple gunshot victims. The suspect just hijacked a U.S. mail carrier truck and was last seen in the area of 38th and Walnut. Everyone is encouraged to get off the road and use extreme caution! All law enforcement is currently searching for the suspect and more information will be released as soon as it becomes available.”

In a tweet, state Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, encouraged his constituents to stay in their homes until the situation was resolved.

“The tragic situation unfolding in Odessa is serious,” he said. “I’ve been in contact with DPS officials, the Speaker and the Governor, and we are working to help in any way possible. In the meantime, please pray for the victims.”

Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement that he will be traveling to Odessa on Sunday.

“The First Lady and I are heartbroken over this senseless and cowardly attack, and we offer our unwavering support to the victims, their families, and all the people of Midland and Odessa,” Abbott said. “I thank the first responders who have acted swiftly and admirably under pressure, and I want to remind all Texans that we will not allow the Lone Star State to be overrun by hatred and violence. We will unite, as Texans always do, to respond to this tragedy.”

Both Texans in the presidential race, Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke, also weighed in.

“Heartbreaking news out of Odessa and Midland, Texas as police search for an active shooter at-large,” Castro tweeted. “Stay indoors and monitor news alerts and safety protocols.”

“Our hearts are with Midland, Odessa, and everyone in West Texas who has to endure this again,” O’Rourke said. “More information is forthcoming, but here’s what we know: We need to end this epidemic.”

President Donald Trump tweeted that he had been briefed by Attorney General Barr about the shootings and the “FBI and Law Enforcement is fully engaged.”

News of the West Texas shooting comes exactly four weeks after a deadly shooting at an El Paso Walmart that left 22 dead and more than two dozen wounded. The gunman in that shooting was arrested and charged with capital murder.

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This is a breaking story and will be updated.