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.
The announcement of the gunman’s identity was delayed by officials one day after he used an assault rifle to shoot a police officer during a traffic stop before fleeing and continuing his shooting rampage until he was finally stopped by officers near a movie theater complex. The motive for the shooting remained unknown as of Sunday afternoon, but NBC News reported that the gunman had recently been fired from his job, suggesting that he might have been a disgruntled former employee with an ax to grind. But how that ax to grind turned into a murderous driving spree was not immediately answered.
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.”
After it was widely reported that five people had been killed along the way, the death toll rose on Sunday to at least seven people who died from the shootings. One of the nearly two dozen people injured was a 17-month old girl, who was reportedly shot in the face.
Before officials announced the gunman’s name, there was widespread outrage across social media about why the shooter’s identity was being concealed. Many said that the shooter would not have been afforded the same privilege if he was Black or brown. The shooters’s identities were announced quickly following each of the most recent mass shootings in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. So it was curious why officials were hesitant to release the name now, especially since they clearly know his name if they know he was recently fired.
A traffic stop in Odessa seemed to set off the deadly chain of events after the gunman pulled over for what police said was a failure to use a turn signal, according to the Associated Press. After he stopped, he turned around and fired a gun multiple times though his back windshield at the squad car behind him, hitting one of the two officers. That’s when the gunman fled, shooting more than 20 people along the way until police shot and killed him.
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.
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.