ODESSA, Texas–Seven people were killed and scores more were wounded—including three police officers and a 17-month-old child shot in the face—when a man armed with a rifle carried out a terrifying rampage in west Texas on Saturday afternoon.
After opening fire on state troopers during a traffic stop on Interstate 20 between Odessa and Midland, the suspect went on to randomly shoot other victims and hijack a postal van before being gunned down by police near a movie theater.
The drama ended when a police SUV rammed the stolen postal van to stop the killer. The dramatic scene was caught on video by a witness who counted more than 40 shots fired before the suspect was neutralized. At least one police officer was critically injured in the ensuing firefight.
“This was a joint effort by just a multitude of departments to find this animal and bring him to justice,” Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke said.
Police did not identify the gunman but described him as a white man in his mid-thirties. They said the motive for the carnage was unknown.
The shooting spree began when troopers with the Texas Department of Public Safety tried to pull over the suspect for a traffic stop on Interstate 20 around 3:15 p.m. local time.
“The male driver (and only occupant in the vehicle) pointed a rifle toward the rear window of his car and fired several shots toward the DPS patrol unit,” the agency said in a statement.
“The patrol unit was occupied by two Troopers, and one was hit by the gunfire. The suspect fled the scene and continued shooting innocent people.”
Shauna Saxton, who says she came face-to-face with the shooter on I-20, told CBS7 the shooting “wasn’t a methodical thing, he was just trying to kill whoever he could kill.”
Saxton said she was stopped under a bridge at a stop light when she heard a “pop-pop-pop” sound.
“I looked over my shoulder and a gold car pulled up and the man was there and he had a very large gun and it was pointing at me, and in that moment all I could think about was driving away, but there were two cars in front of me. I started honking my horn, and swerving,” she said.
She said she finally managed to get away and as soon as she did she heard “three more shots.”
At one point, the suspect fled from his vehicle and hijacked a U.S. Postal Service truck. “The suspect continued shooting at innocent civilians all over Odessa,” police said in a statement.
Maribel Philips lived on the street where the shooter abandoned his car and where postal worker Mary Granados, 29, was killed when he hijacked her van. On Sunday, she told The Daily Beast that police told her that the postal delivery woman had been shot and her delivery van stolen.
The gunman ended up cornered outside the Cinergy movie theater in Odessa, where he shot an Odessa officer and a Midland officer.
Video from the scene showed the postal vehicle ramming a law enforcement vehicle and then police firing on the van. Police confirmed that a suspect was shot and killed in that confrontation.
Alex Woods told CNN he was driving up to the mall and saw police swarming the theater area.
“I just see a bunch of gunfire going off and I see the officer walking up to the mail van and discharging his weapon into it,” Woods said. “It was a very surreal moment.”
Authorities said they pulled over the gunman’s vehicle after he made an illegal left turn. The explosion of violence sparked such chaos that police initially reported that there were two shooters in separate vehicles, though they later said that wasn’t the case.
Photos from the highway showed cars with bullet holes in the windshields. At the mall, shoppers and theater-goers fled in terror, literally running out of their shoes and leaving food and bags behind.
Video posted online of what appeared to be the shooting scene showed people taking cover on the ground. A boy could be heard pleading, “Who’s shooting, Dad?”
Even after the suspect was killed, the situation remained chaotic, with police responding to 911 calls of an active shooter and rushing through the shopping center with guns drawn.
At one point, reporters for CBS7 were rushed off air by armed police during a live broadcast from their station in the mall.
By Saturday night, details about some of the victims were trickling out.
The 17-month-old girl who was shot in the face was airlifted to University Medical Center in Lubbock, where she was in stable condition, hospital officials said.
The Ector County Independent School District in Odessa announced that one of its students had been killed. At least seven of the 21 wounded were in critical condition, officials said.
The rampage was at least the 280th mass shooting—defined as an incident in which four or more people are shot—in the country this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
It comes less than one month after a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso that left 22 dead and dozens injured. That gunman allegedly traveled to El Paso to target Hispanic people after writing a racist manifesto online prior to the shooting.
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, who represented Texas in Congress and whose hometown is El Paso, called the situation “fucked up.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he was heading to Odessa after “this senseless and cowardly act.” President Trump tweeted that he had been briefed on the violence by Attorney General Bill Barr.