The gunman in a West Texas rampage had been “on a long spiral down” and was fired from his oil services job the morning he killed seven people, calling 911 both before and after the shooting began, authorities said on Monday.
Officers killed 36-year-old Seth Aaron Ator on Saturday outside a busy Odessa movie theater after a spate of violence that spanned 10 miles (16 kilometers, injuring at least 25 people in addition to the dead, authorities said.
FBI special agent Christopher Combs said Ator called the agency’s tip line as well as local police dispatch on Saturday after being fired from Journey Oilfield Services, making “rambling statements about some of the atrocities that he felt that he had gone through.”
Fifteen minutes later, Mr. Combs said, a Texas state trooper unaware of those calls tried pulling over Ator for failing to signal a lane change. That was when Ator pointed an AR-style rifle toward the rear window of his car and fired on the trooper, starting a terrifying police chase as Ator sprayed bullets into passing cars, shopping plazas and killed a U.S. Postal Service employee while hijacking her mail truck.
More than 20 people were injured in the daylight attack over the Labor Day holiday weekend, which came just weeks after another mass shooting killed 22 people in the Texas border city of El Paso.
Ator fired at random as he drove in the area of Odessa and Midland, two cities more than 300 miles (482 kilometers west of Dallas. Police used a marked SUV to ram the mail truck outside the Cinergy Movie Theater in Odessa, disabling the vehicle.
Authorities have not said how Ator obtained the gun used in the shooting, but Ator had previously failed a federal background check for a firearm, said John Wester, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.