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Gunman in Texas shooting had been fired from job, denied a gun through background check, officials say

A crashed U.S. Postal Service vehicle and Odessa Police vehicle are seen late Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 at a Cinergy movie theatre in Odessa, Texas. (Ryan Michalesko/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

The man who went on a deadly rampage Saturday in West Texas had been fired from his job that day, Odessa police say.

Seven victims died and 25 more were wounded in the attack that began when state troopers tried to pull the gunman over on Interstate 20 for failing to signal a left turn.

Officials on Monday named six of the seven who were killed in the rampage: Joe Griffith, 40; Mary Granados, 29; Edwin Peregrino, 25; and Rodolfo Julio Arco, 57, all of Odessa; Kameron Karltess Brown, 30, of Brownwood; and Raul Garcia, 35, of El Paso.

Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke takes a moment during a press conference at the University of Texas Permian Basin on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019 in Odessa, Texas. (Ryan Michalesko/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

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A 15-year-old girl was also killed in the shooting, officials said. She has been identified by friends and family as Leilah Hernandez.

On Monday, Odessa police Chief Michael Gerke outlined a timeline of the events leading up to the shooting.

He also added that officials had learned of another victim — a 70-year-old woman — who was injured by shrapnel and was treated and released from a hospital.

Gerke said the gunman, Seth Aaron Ator, had gone to work Saturday morning at Journey Oilfield Services and was there for a short time before he was fired.

Church-goers gather at Mission Dorado Baptist Church on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. The church sits within sight of the movie theatre where police took down a gunman who killed at least sevent people and shot more than 20 people Saturday. “This is Odessa, Texas. Things like this don’t happen here,” said Pastor Del Traffanstedt. (Ryan Michalesko/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

Afterward, he and his employer called 911 to report a disagreement over the termination, but Ator had left before Odessa officers arrived.

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Authorities did not provide details about the disagreement and did not say how long Ator had worked for the company.

About 15 minutes before his encounter with troopers, the man called a national FBI tip line but did not make any threats, FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Christopher Combs said Monday.

“It was, frankly, rambling statements about some of the atrocities he felt he had gone through,” Combs said.

The troopers were not actively looking for Ator’s car when he was pulled over, Gerke said.

The 36-year-old fired several shots toward a Texas Department of Public Safety vehicle, striking one trooper. He then continued shooting, at random as he drove between Midland and Odessa, authorities said.

A damaged police vehicle and U.S. Postal Service van blocked off with tape near where a gunman was shot and killed at Cinergy Odessa movie theater following a deadly shooting spree, on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019 in Odessa, Texas. (Cengiz Yar/Getty Images/TNS)

At one point, Ator hijacked a mail van, killing the postal worker inside. Police later rammed the van with an SUV outside the Cinergy Movie Theater in Odessa. The gunman then fired at police, wounding two officers before he was fatally shot.

Online court records show Ator was arrested in 2001 for a misdemeanor offense that would not have prevented him from legally purchasing firearms in Texas.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Ator was denied a gun after a background check was run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check system. Authorities have not said when or why the decision to deny Ator’s request was made.

Officials also have not said where he got the “AR-type weapon” he used Saturday.

Officials completed their search of Ator’s property Sunday, a “very strange residence” in Ector County, Combs said.

“The conditions reflect what his mental state was going into this,” said Combs, who did not elaborate on the state of the property. “He was on a long spiral of going down.”

The motive for the shooting remained unclear Monday, and Gerke said the reason may never be determined.

“The only way to determine that is if we could talk to him and we can’t,” he said.

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© 2019 The Dallas Morning News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.