Odessa's Active Shooter
31 August 2019
The following is a short version of a 43 page report by Retired Texas Ranger Brian Burney
On 31 August 2019, local, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies responded to the Midland/Odessa area in response to emergency calls as an unknown person(s) drove through various parts of the two communities and randomly shot and or shot at many people, including a Texas State Trooper. In approximately an hour’s time, seven (7) civilians had been shot & killed, three (3) law enforcement officers had been shot & wounded, at least twenty-one (21) civilians had been shot & wounded, and one (1) suspect had been shot & killed. Several other civilians received cuts and lacerations caused by flying glass and debris associated with gunfire striking very close to their proximity. An unknown number of people narrowly escaped serious injury or death. At least twenty-four (24) shooting scenes were identified with eleven (11) on Interstate Highway 20 and thirteen (13) within urban areas of Midland (Midland County) & Odessa (Ector County). The deceased suspect was identified as Seth Aaron Ator (white, male, 09-27-1982, 36 years old.) The investigation revealed Seth Ator acted alone.
At approximately 1:27 PM, Odessa Police Department (OPD) responded to a disturbance call at Journey Oilfield, located at 2200 E. Murphy St, in the City of Odessa, Ector County, Texas. The disturbance involved a recently terminated employee, identified as Seth Aaron Ator (W/M, DOB: 09-27-1982). During Ator’s job termination, Ator refused to relinquish company property such as the remote gate opener and the keys to the building. Eventually, Ator rammed his vehicle through a chain link fence to exit the business’s property causing the employer to call OPD. Ator was not on site when OPD patrol officers arrived on scene. OPD patrol officers initiated OPD case # 19-0030500 for the criminal mischief and disturbance at the business. During this phase of OPD’s investigation, OPD Officers James Santana and Taylor Box were the responding officers and at one point spoke with Ator over the phone. Ator reiterated his paranoid delusions and conspiracy theories centered around child pornography and that certain people were tracking him and impersonating him online. He mentioned “Texas Penal Code33.07” (Online Impersonation) several times during his phone conversation with OPD officers. Ator demanded OPD officers provide him with a “HTP address” so he could track down who was stalking him and posting child porn. Ator made no claims or threats that he was planning on shooting anyone. It was shortly after this phone call ended that Ator attempted to call the employer who had just fired him. The employer blocked the call in the presence of the officers. Moments later, emergency dispatchers received calls that a man was recklessly driving a car, which matched the description of Ator’s car, along West Loop 338 in Odessa and the man was displaying a rifle. Although Ator did not make any direct threats about wanting to shoot people at Journey Oilfield, OPD Officers Santana and Box, along with Ector County-stationed Texas State Troopers Frank Rangel and Kobe Huett took up security positions around the business for a while as a precaution. The car’s location was periodically updated to the police by concerned citizens, and it appeared Ator was returning to the area of Journey Oilfield. The last updated address given was the 500 block of West Murphy. Ator did not return to Journey Oilfield. THP Troopers agreed to drive out to potential address where Ator was reported to be living. The officers eventually left the business property to patrol the area believing Ator’s negative attention was potentially targeting Journey Oilfield. The total amount of time OPD officers were at Journey Oilfield was just over an hour and a half putting the end time close at 3pm.
Midland County-stationed Texas State Troopers Melina Justiss &Charles Pryor were on patrol in Midland County near IH-20 and West Loop 250. This location was approximately 13.5 miles away from the site of the previous disturbance call in Odessa involving Ator. At approximately 3:17 PM, the troopers, who were unaware of Ator’s involvement in the disturbance a couple hours before in the neighboring county, initiated a traffic stop on Ator’s vehicle for the offense of Fail to Signal Required Distance. As Ator entered onto IH-20’s westbound lanes using the westbound on-ramp west of W. Loop 250, Ator fired multiple shots from a rifle through the back window of his car and into the front windshield of the trooper’s marked patrol vehicle. Trooper Pryor, a front seat passenger, was immediately shot in the face and Trooper Justiss, the driver, narrowly avoided being shot as she returned gunfire with her handgun through her own windshield. Ator appeared to drive away but stopped along the shoulder of IH-20 about a hundred yards away from the troopers. Ator briefly re-engaged the gunfight as he shot at Trooper Justiss, Trooper Pryor, and passing motorists. Trooper Justiss returned fire again using her handgun. It was later determined that some of Trooper’s Justiss’s bullets struck Ator’s vehicle. Ator sped away westbound on IH-20. Due to the serious injuries sustained by Trooper Pryor, the troopers were unable to give chase to Ator.
As Ator drove west along IH-20, Ator called 911 on a couple of occasions and was on the phone with various 911 communication operators as he drove alongside unsuspecting motorists and shot through the sides of the motorist’s vehicles. The following civilians were on IH-20 at the time they were shot Raul Garcia, Rodolfo Julio Arco, Brad Wayne Grimsley, Marco Corral, Efe Obayagbona, Fatai Quadri, Timothy Hardaway, Joseph Glide, and Daniel Munoz. Ator taunted 911 operators about what he was doing as he fired shots into the motorists driving near him. Most of the people, whom Ator shot or shot at during this entire event were occupying motor vehicles. Ator fired rifle shots through the sides of most vehicles striking motorists who had little to no chance to even be aware that Ator posed a threat.
After shooting several civilians along IH-20, Ator entered the City Limits of Odessa. Ator discontinued his calls to 911. Ator drove north on East Loop 338 where he shot Mark Anthony Gonzalez and Glenda Dempsey. Ator crossed under Texas State Highway191 (TX-191) and turned into a commercial parking lot. As Ator entered the N. Service Rd of TX 191 from the parking lot, he shot Marian Encinosa Boado. Ator drove north on East Loop 338 then turned around on East Loop 338 just north of TX-191. Ator drove west on TX-191 then entered a commercial parking lot where he shot Lielah Hernandez and Nathan Hernandez. Ator entered Preston Smith Rd and turned west on TX-191 where he shot Krystal Lee, Coltyn Reyenga, Robert Cavazos, and Anderson Lee Davis. Ator turned south on JBS Parkway from TX-191 as he shot Lilia Diaz and Larry Shores. Ator shot Timothy Beard while driving on JBS Parkway south of TX-191.
Ator eventually made his way to a centrally located residential area and began shooting again. Ator shot Wanda Silvas while driving on East 38th Street at Dixie Blvd. Ator drove south on Adams Street where he stopped his car next to a Mary Granados as she sat inside her US Postal Service (USPS) delivery van, which was temporarily parked in the roadway. Ator shot at nearby motorists then yanked Mary Granados out of her USPS van by her arm and immediately shot her in the head. Ator retrieved what appeared to be a rifle magazine or a mobile phone from his car. Ator shot Mary Granados, who was laying on the ground, a second time just before he entered the USPS delivery van. Ator fled the area in the USPS delivery van and drove to the area of Walnut Ave and East 38th Street where he shot Edwin Peregrino and Jesus Rogelio Alvidrez. Ator drove away from the area in the USPS van.
For several minutes Ator drove the USPS van through parts of West and North Odessa without shooting at anyone. Eventually he drove on north Yukon where he shot Kameron Brown, who was stopped at the traffic light at Yukon and Grandview. Ator continued driving East. Ator turned south onto Faudree Ave where he shot Joseph Griffith, as Mr. Griffith and his family were waiting at the traffic light at the intersection of Faudree and TX-191. Ator turned onto the S. Service Road of TX-191and he shot Coy Edge. For an unknown reason, Ator made his way to the area around Cinergy Theater located near the Ector County / Midland County line along TX-191.The theater had just been evacuated by law enforcement as it was thought the active shooter(s) might be heading to densely populated venues. Ator did in fact drive to that area. As Ator neared the Cinergy Theater area and drove through the parking lot. of Medical Center Hospital (MCH) ProCare, he exchanged gunfire with MPD Officer Zachary Owens, who was driving his patrol car into the parking lot from Dr Emmitt Headlee St. MPD Officer Owens was wounded and Ator immediately shot and wounded OPD Officer James Santana, who was driving his marked OPD patrol car directly behind MPD Officer Owens’ patrol car. Ator turned east onto Dr Emmitt Headlee St. THP Trooper Justin Basso saw the shooting and immediately gave chase to Ator. Trooper Basso fired a few rifle shots through the windshield of his own patrol vehicle and into the back of the USPS van. Ator drove aggressively towards a police roadblock that was shielding many theater evacuees on Dr Emmitt Headlee St. The roadblock was approximately 450 yards away from where MPD Officer Owens and OPD Officer Santana were both wounded. OPD Officer Kaaiako Vavao and MPD Officer Addisson Prater, used their marked patrol vehicles to create the roadblock in front of Ator. As Ator closed in on their positions, the officers simultaneously employed two different tactics to counter Ator’s assault.
Officer Vavao fired multiple rifle shots directly into the windshield of the USPS van as Officer Prater aligned his patrol vehicle and accelerated to strike and deflect Ator’s vehicle before it could slam full force into Officer’s Vavao’s vehicle. The MPD vehicle struck the USPS van causing the van to turn sideway before the van struck the OPD vehicle. The series of crashes caused the USPS van to stop. With the van’s airbags deployed, seeing into the van from the outside was difficult and officers had no way of knowing that Ator had taken a fighting position or a position of cover in the front passenger seat and floorboard. Officers Vavao and Prater were joined by University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB) Police Department Lieutenant Brad Standerfer as the three briefly engaged Ator’s position inside the USPS van with gunfire.
Ator remained inside the USPS delivery van where he was subsequently shot and killed as he engaged police officers in a brief gun battle. This initial scene was secured. Due to misinformation, confusion, and misreporting of information to law enforcement, many law enforcement personnel had to leave this scene to continue to respond to areas of reported or suspected violence. It took considerable amount of time, personnel, and resources before it was verified that the violence stopped at the same time Seth Ator was stopped. As this event unfolded, several civilians and many first responders transitioned into medical providers and or emergency transport providers. Most of the details involving the lifesaving actions performed during this event were documented by the respective local law enforcement agencies and this investigation remained focused on the criminal investigation aspect.
This unprecedented act of random mobile violence created a huge challenge to law enforcement officers and emergency medical responders as they tried to locate, contain, and stop the violence, while simultaneously dealing with the dead, dying, wounded, panic-stricken, and oblivious people they came across. The sheer number of 911 calls, understandably, overwhelmed 911 communication operators with information about multiple locations, multiple and greatly differing suspect descriptions and suspect vehicle descriptions. Social media posts and personal communications flooded the area with unconfirmed and unsubstantiated rumors of violence at multiple locations in Odessa and Midland that were never targets of violence. Law enforcement officers had to respond to these alleged sites of active violence at locations such as department stores, shopping malls, etc. Many factors culminated into an approximate hour-long delay in overall situational awareness, after Ator was killed, before law enforcement could determine that Ator had acted alone. Emergency services transitioned from stopping the violence to locating and treating the wounded and identifying and protecting crime scenes. Throughout the night of 08-31-2019, medical treatment and scene containment were prioritized as emergency resources and personnel were routed to the area from all over Texas and the United States. That night, agency leaders determined that an Incident Command Center would be established and operated from the University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB) beginning the following morning.
The Texas Rangers’ State Crime Scene Investigation Team, consisting of Texas Rangers from all parts of the state, responded to the area. Texas Rangers and FBI Evidence Recovery Teams (ERTs) along with OPD Detectives and OPD CSU Technicians, were assigned to process the various crime scenes and to collect evidence. The overall extent of the mass murder event was not fully realized at the time investigative teams were first deployed so reporting, documenting, and organizing information was a challenge. Some of the people who were targeted by Ator didn’t realize they were being shot at until after the event and they discovered bullet damage to their vehicles well after they left the area. Many of the wounded and or dying people were whisked away to hospitals and their bullet damaged and blood-soaked motor vehicles were left abandoned throughout the community. It took time, diligence, and a lot of concerted effort to put the pieces of this puzzle back together. As evidence was collected, care was taken to return what property could be returned to the victim or the victim’s family as quickly as possible.
The below listed persons died because of gunfire:
1. Raul Garcia, DOB: 1/4/1985
2. Rodolfo Julio Arco, DOB: 4/17/1962
3. Lielah Hernandez, DOB: 5/4/2004
4. Mary Granados, DOB: 12/12/1989
5. Edwin Peregrino, DOB: 9/8/1993
6. Kameron Brown, DOB: 3/22/1989
7. Joseph Griffith, DOB: 9/13/1978
8. Seth Ator, W/M, DOB: 9/27/1982 (Shooter)
The below listed persons were wounded by gunfire and they are listed in the approximate order in which they were wounded.
1. Charles Pryor, Texas State Trooper
2. Brad Wayne Grimsley
3. Marco Corral
4. Efe Obayagbona
5. Fatai Quadri
6. Timothy Hardaway
7. Joseph Glide
8. Daniel Munoz
9. Mark Anthony Gonzalez
10. Glenda Dempsey
11. Marian Encinosa Boado
12. Nathan Hernandez
13. Krystal Lee
14. Coltyn Reyenga
15. Robert Cavazos
16. Anderson Lee Davis
17. Lilia Diaz
18. Larry Shores
19. Timothy Beard
20. Wanda Silvas
21. Jesus Rogelio Alvidrez
22. Coy Edge
23. Zackary Owens, Midland Police Department
24. James Santana, Odessa Police Department
You can view a digital map of events here.