UPDATED: 4:36 p.m. EDT — Officials finally identified the gunman in the Odessa shooting Saturday afternoon that killed at least seven people and injured more than 20 others. Seth Aaron Ator, 36, of Odessa, was identified more than 24 hours after the series of shootings took place in West Texas.
UPDATED: 1:27 p.m. EDT — More details have begun to surface about the gunman who killed at least seven people and injured nearly two dozen others in a public shooting in Texas on Saturday. According to Tom Winter of NBC News, “law enforcement officials” could have found a potential motive for the shooting spree that started with a traffic stop by police in the town of Odessa.
The local police chief reportedly was hesitant to release the gunman’s full name because “he doesn’t want to give him notoriety, but the name will be made public later.”
Officials also confirmed the type of gun that was used in the shooting.
Prior to those reports, including that the gunman might have been a disgruntled former employee, the only information the public had about the shooter was that he was a white male in his mid-30s.
The Associated Press reported that there was a press conference scheduled for later in the day.
The nation’s latest mass shooting — this time in Odessa, Texas — left at least seven people dead and at least 21 others injured, including a police officer who was shot, on Saturday afternoon. In the ensuing hours after responding law enforcement said they killed the shooter, the demand to know the identity of the gunman grew louder across the internet.
One of the people injured was a 17-month-old baby girl, who was reportedly shot in the face.
However, as of Sunday morning, the only thing people knew about the shooter was that he was a white man in his mid-30s who began his shooting spree after an officer pulled his car over.
Saturday’s gun violence brought the death toll for mass shootings that happened in August to at least 38 people, not including the gunmen. Still, law enforcement seemed to be keeping the gunman’s name a secret, an apparent reversal of what has become protocol in the aftermath of mass shootings that killed and injured innocent people in public.
It was unclear why the gunman’s name was being concealed.
In other recent mass shootings, those gunmen were quickly identified by people on social media as well as law enforcement officials. By only announcing that the gunman was white and in his mid-30s, police only confirmed what has become a foregone conclusion with mass shootings.
White domestic terrorism has been a growing problem, and the shooting in El Paso in early August and Gilroy, California, in late July were racially motivated against Hispanics and Latinos. While those two shootings took place in towns near the border with Mexico, which is where an overwhelming number of migrants have been seeking asylum while trying to enter the U.S. legally, Odessa was located more than 300 miles from the nation’s southern border, throwing the motive for Saturday’s shooting into question.
Was the Odessa shooting racially motivated, too? The public has been left to try to fill in many of the blanks that police, in theory, should be readily offering up as part of the public information people have a right to know.
But if any of the recent shootings were an indication, it might be a safe bet to assume the Odessa shooting may have been committed by a white supremacist. That suspicion was lent some credence in part because Odessa’s population is nearly 56 percent Hispanic or Latino, according to the most recent Census data available.
The apparent prevailing logic behind not naming the shooter is the fear that doing so would encourage others hungry for attention to do the same. But, of course, others argue that it is the nation’s loose gun laws, especially in Texas, that encourage such brazen gun violence, not publicity about the shooter.
According to CNN, “The shootings in West Texas took place a day before a series of new state laws easing gun restrictions were set to take effect.”
Video of the moment the gunman was shot and killed by police was captured by bystander Alex Woods, who posted the footage to his Facebook page.
CNN provided a detailed timeline of the shootings:
“Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke said the suspect of the Midland-Odessa shootings was a white male in his mid-30s.
“The incident began at 3:17 p.m. CDT, when a Department of Public Safety officer attempted to make a traffic stop on a gold Honda, Gerke said. When the vehicle came to a stop, the occupant shot the officer.
“The vehicle drove westbound into Odessa, where another person was shot. The suspect continued through Odessa to 42nd Street, where Gerke said ‘there were multiple victims.’
“The suspect abandoned his vehicle and stole a USPS mail truck, Gerke said. There were other victims after that, he added.
“‘The suspect then drove eastbound toward the Cinergy movie theater, where he and officers exchanged fire. The suspect was fatally shot in the exchange, Gerke said.'”
That timeline means it’s been more than 12 hours since the episode began, which also means it’s been more than 12 hours since the public has been deprived of knowing who committed these heinous crimes.
Since 9/11, some of the most horrific acts of terrorism in the United States have been committed by American citizens. This especially goes for the nation’s police departments that routinely kill unarmed Black people suspected of committing the same crimes white suspects survive — like in El Paso, where Crusius, armed with an assault rifle after killing at least 20 people, was able to be apprehended and arrested without being injured, let alone shot. However, when the attacker is not brown, there is usually hesitation to call them a terrorist. From the Aurora movie shooting in 2012 to the Las Vegas shooter in 2017, terrorism is alive and well in this country — and the culprits rightfully should be called domestic terrorists.
But we knew the names of the gunmen fairly quickly in all of the above instances. Except for Odessa. Why?