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Texas Gunman Who Killed 7 Had Been Fired Just Hours Before Shootings

High school students Celeste Lujan, left, and Yasmin Natera mourn their friend, Leila Hernandez, one of the victims of the Saturday shooting rampage in West Texas.
Sue Ogrocki
High school students Celeste Lujan, left, and Yasmin Natera mourn their friend, Leila Hernandez, one of the victims of the Saturday shooting rampage in West Texas.

The shooter who opened fire after a routine traffic stop Saturday in Texas, killing seven people and injuring 22, was fired just hours before the deadly shooting.

Seth Aaron Ator, 36, who lived in the Odessa area, had been fired from his job at Journey Oilfield Services after a disagreement, according to Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke. The shooting rampage, which appears to have been random, ended when Ator was killed by police.

Federal law enforcement officials say Ator called a national tip line on Saturday just before his encounter with troopers, where he pulled out a rifle and opened fire.

"It was, frankly, rambling statements about some of the atrocities that he felt that he had gone through," FBI special agent Christopher Combs explained during a news conference in West Texas on Monday afternoon.

"He did not make a threat during that phone call," Combs said. The agency initiated procedures "trying to figure out who he was, where he was," Combs said. "Unfortunately, it was only 15 minutes before the trooper was engaged."

Ator had a prior misdemeanor arrest in 2001, The Associated Press reported. Law enforcement officials say they don't know how Ator came into possession of the firearm he used during the shootings.

Ator's identity was released via Facebook after Gerke explained why he would not name the shooter during a news conference held after the event. "I'm not going to give him any notoriety for what he did," Gerke said.

At a Monday afternoon news conference, police released the identities of the adults killed in the shooting. The names of the victims, who ranged in age from 15 to 57, also have trickled out in social media posts by employers and family members.

Rodolfo "Rudy" Arco, 57, who owned a trucking company, was among those killed. His sister Maria Arco told The Arizona Republic that her brother moved to Texas from Las Vegas in 2017 following a deadly shooting at a music festival, hoping it would be a safer place to live. "He felt that Odessa was the place to go," Arco said.

Edwin Peregrino, 25, was killed when he heard gunshots outside his parents' home and walked outside to check it out, according to his sister, Eritizi Peregrino. The shooter was driving by the house and opened fire, The Washington Post reported.

Mary Granados, 29, was shot when the shooter stole her U.S. Postal Service truck. Her twin sister, Rosie Granados, told ABC News, "she left so soon and she was too young."

Another victim who was killed, Leilah Hernandez, 15, was shot while walking out of a car dealership with her brother, according to family members. Her brother, Nathan, also shot, is hospitalized with injuries. A family member told The Washington Post that the family was at the dealership on Saturday to pick up a truck that Nathan had been saving up for.

The injured also include three law enforcement officers and a 17-month-old girl, who was hit in the mouth with shrapnel and is expected to recover. A GoFundMe account started for the toddler, Anderson Davis, has raised more than $200,000.

On the GoFundMe page, her mother wrote: "I ask you to continue praying for our hearts as we experience this, pray for complete healing of Anderson, pray for every other family in our same situation, or worse, today and pray for the shooters. Pray that whatever is causing them to do this will be defeated by God and they will stop shooting."

Ator used an AR-15-style rifle during the weekend shooting rampage, which began when he was stopped by police for failing to use a turn signal.

Upon being pulled over, the AP reports, Ator pointed a rifle toward the rear window of his car. He then fired several shots toward the patrol car stopping him, striking a state trooper, according to Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger.

Ator then fled and began to fire shots as he drove through the Odessa and Midland areas of West Texas. The violent rampage ended when police killed the gunman outside a movie theater.

A large public vigil was held Sunday night on the campus of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, Marfa Public Radio reports, and began with a standing ovation for law enforcement and medical providers.

"Our first responders did an absolutely amazing job," Odessa Mayor David Turner told the crowd. "You're our heroes, and we could not be more proud of you."

"We're still scared, we're terrified, said Marcos Olivas, who attended the vigil service. "But we can't let that get to us, so we came out tonight to show that fear will not get the best of us."

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Allison Aubrey is a correspondent for NPR News, where her stories can be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She's also a contributor to the PBS NewsHour and is one of the hosts of NPR's Life Kit.