At least five people were dead in West Texas after a man stopped by state troopers for failing to signal a left turn opened fire and fled, shooting more than 20 people as he drove before being killed by officers outside a movie theater, authorities said.
The shooting began on Saturday afternoon with an interstate traffic stop where gunfire was exchanged with police, setting off a chaotic rampage during which the suspect hijacked a mail carrier truck and fired at random as he drove in the area of Odessa and Midland, two cities in the heart of Texas oil country more than 483km west of Dallas.
Police initially reported the possibility of multiple shooters, but Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke later said there was only one male suspect in his 30s.
The suspect shot “at innocent civilians all over Odessa,” according to a statement from Odessa police, which did not name the man or offer a motive.
The terrifying chain of events began when Texas state troopers tried pulling over a gold-colored car on Interstate 20 for failing to signal a left turn, Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said.
Before the vehicle came to a complete stop, the driver “pointed a rifle toward the rear window of his car and fired several shots” toward the patrol car stopping him.
The gunshots struck one of two troopers inside the patrol car, Cesinger said, after which the gunman fled and continued shooting.
Two other police officers were shot before the suspect was killed. The condition of the three injured officers was not immediately released.
Gerke said there were at least 21 civilian shooting victims.
He said at least five people died.
The shooting came just four weeks after a gunman in the Texas border city of El Paso killed 22 people at a Walmart.
Saturday’s shooting brought the number of mass killings in the US this year to 25, matching the number in all of last year, according to the AP/USATODAY/Northeastern University mass murder database.
If it turns out that the shooter is not among the five dead, the number of victims for this year has already reached 140, the level of all last year.
Seven people remained in critical condition at one hospital hours after the West Texas shooting, said Russell Tippin, chief executive of Medical Center Hospital in Odessa.
He said a child under two years old was transported to another hospital.
He also said one person that the hospital had received had died, although it was unclear if that victim was among the five dead that Gerke reported.
Tippin said 13 shooting victims were being treated at the hospital on Saturday.
Dustin Fawcett said he was sitting in his truck at a Starbucks in Odessa when he heard at least six gunshots ring out less than 50m behind him.
He spotted a white sedan with a passenger window that had been shattered.
That is when he thought: “Oh man, this is a shooting.”
Fawcett, 28, an Odessa transportation consultant, “got out to make sure everyone was safe,” but found that no one had been struck by the gunfire nearby.
He said a little girl was bleeding, but she had not been shot, although he later found out that a bullet had grazed her face.
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