Six people have been killed and 21 others injured following a gunman's shooting rampage in the West Texas cities of Midland and Odessa after a traffic stop on Saturday afternoon.
The suspect, who has been identified as a white male in his mid-30s, shot three police officers and other people at random before he was shot dead at the Odessa Cinergy movie theater.
Matt Collins, chief operating officer at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, said at a news conference just before 8 p.m. Central time that one 17-month-old child had been transported by Life Flight to a children's hospital in Lubbock. Russell Tippin, CEO of Medical Center Hospital, said 14 other shooting victims are being treated at the hospital.
The mayor of Midland, Jerry Morales, said the incident began just after 3 p.m. with a traffic stop along Interstate 20 and Highway 191, which connects the cities of Midland and Odessa. The cities have a combined population of more than 251,000 residents.
Following the traffic stop, the suspect hijacked a U.S. mail carrier and drove it until the vehicle stalled.
“This was a joint effort by a multitude of departments to find this animal and bring him to justice,” Odessa Police Chief Mike Gerke said at a news conference.
Gerke added that the police department could not provide a motive at this time. While he did not release information at the news conference about the type of gun the suspect used in the shooting, the Texas Department of Public Safety later confirmed that the suspect used a rifle and shot several rounds at the two state troopers who had pulled him over.
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The Odessa Police Department released an alert on Facebook and Twitter Saturday afternoon, warning: "Active Shooter! Please Share! A subject (possibly 2) is currently driving around Odessa shooting at random people. At this time there are multiple gunshot victims. The suspect just hijacked a U.S. mail carrier truck and was last seen in the area of 38th and Walnut. Everyone is encouraged to get off the road and use extreme caution! All law enforcement is currently searching for the suspect and more information will be released as soon as it becomes available."
While there were earlier reports of two suspects, police said late Saturday they believed there was only one suspect, and he is now dead. However, police departments of both Midland and Odessa, which are 20 miles apart, warned the public to stay inside their homes and off the roadways just in case there is another active shooter.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who will be traveling to Odessa on Sunday, said in a statement that he is “heartbroken over this senseless and cowardly attack.” He also thanked first responders for their work, and said the Department of Public Safety is working with local law enforcement to ensure justice is delivered.
A spokesperson with the city of Odessa said chaplains are meeting with families of the shooting victims who are being treated at Medical Center Hospital. The hospital is currently on lockdown to ensure the safety of its staff.
In a statement emailed to The Christian Post Saturday night, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said: “I am horrified to see such a senseless act terrorize the fine people of the Permian Basin. ... I have asked my law enforcement division and my crime victims services team to assist in any way necessary. Please join Angela and me as we pray for comfort for those who have been impacted by this violent act.”
The attack came just hours after 10 people were shot at a Friday night football game in Mobile, Alabama, by 17-year-old Deangelo Parnell, and four weeks after 22 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso on Aug. 3.