Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 October 2019

Death toll in Texas mass shooting climbs to seven

Man goes on murder spree, also wounding 21, after being pulled over by traffic police

Seven people were killed and 21 wounded in a mass shooting in Texas on Saturday.

A man was pulled over in his car by police before hijacking a mail van and driving around the city of Odessa “shooting at random people”, officers said.

Police said the shooter was a white man in his mid-30s, but did not identify him or his motive for the attack.

On Sunday, Odessa police chief Michael Gerke said those killed on Saturday were aged between 15 and 57.

Mr Gerke did not give the names of the victims or the shooter because he did not want to give him "any notoriety for what he did". But he said the name would be released later.

The gunman was shooting at random at motorists and passers-by, he said.

Texas state troopers tried to stop a gold-coloured car on Saturday afternoon for failing to use indicators at a left turn, said Katherine Cesinger, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Before the vehicle came to a complete stop, the driver “pointed a rifle towards the rear window of his car and fired several shots” aimed at officers trying to apprehend him.

The shots struck one of two troopers in the pursuit car, Ms Cesinger said, after which the gunman fled “and continued shooting innocent people”.

Shauna Saxton was one of the terrified drivers who said she encountered the gunman during his rampage.

Ms Saxton was driving with her husband and grandson in Odessa and had paused at a red light when they heard gunfire.

“I looked over my shoulder to the left and the gold car pulled up, and the man was there and he had a very large gun and it was pointing at me,” she told TV station Kosa.

Gun-related deaths are on the rise in the US. The National
Gun-related deaths are on the rise in the US. The National

Ms Saxton said she was trapped because there were two cars in front of her.

“I started honking my horn," she said, sobbing. "I started swerving and we got a little ahead of him and then for whatever reason the cars in front of me kind of parted."

Ms Saxton said she heard three more shots as she sped away.

Police said the suspect died during an exchange of fire with officers at a cinema.

“I saw the officer walking up to the mail van and discharging his weapon into it," witness Alex Woods told CNN. " I believe that was when the shooter was killed."

Seven people remained in critical condition hours after the shootings, said Russell Tippin, chief executive of Medical Centre Hospital in Odessa.

Mr Tippin said an infant under two years old was taken to another hospital.

August was a particularly deadly month for gun violence in the US.

Thirty-one people died in shootings in El Paso, which is also in Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

The El Paso suspect posted an anti-immigrant rant online before his attack, the authorities said.

Saturday’s killings sparked renewed calls for gun control in a country where firearms were linked to almost 40,000 deaths in 2017.

“We need to end this epidemic,” former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke tweeted after the latest killings.

Mr O’Rourke, a Democratic presidential hopeful, expressed sympathy with “everyone in West Texas who has to endure this again”.

Another Democratic contender, former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, appealed to the Republican-controlled Senate “who refuse to move on gun reform”.

“What is the number?" Mr Catsro asked. "How many Americans are you willing to sacrifice to the National Rifle Association?"

US President Donald Trump tweeted that he had been briefed by Attorney General William Barr.

Vice President Mike Pence said Mr Trump and his administration “remain absolutely determined” to work with leaders in both parties in Congress to take such steps “so we can address and confront this scourge of mass atrocities in our country”.

The president has expressed provisional support for implementing universal background checks.

His position is crucial, because congressional Republicans, who count on gun rights supporters for votes, cannot move on tougher firearms legislation without his backing.

But White House sources reportedly said late last month Mr Trump promised NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre that he would not put pressure on Congress for a universal review of all gun buyers.

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Mass shootings on the rise in the US

As the US was left reeling from another mass shooting, archivists and researchers added yet more numbers to databases of the dead and injured by gun violence in the country.

Data varies on the number of incidents depending on the definition of mass shooting and whether the database records only deaths or injuries as well.

But most trackers agree that mass acts of violence are on the increase.

The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people, excluding the shooter, were shot, including those injured as well as killed.

The archive recorded 281 reported and verified mass shootings so far this year.

From January to September 1, 2019, it found 303 people were killed and 1,178 wounded by gun violence. In the same period last year, 235 were killed and 983 injured.

Taking Odessa’s seven deaths into account, the mass murder database from AP, USA Today and Northeastern University brings the number in the US so far this year to 25, which is as many mass killings as in all of 2018.

The database tracks all US homicides since 2006 involving four or more people killed, not including the offender, over 24 hours regardless of weapon, location or motive.

Mass shootings are also becoming more deadly.

FBI data shows eight of the shootings with the highest casualty count occurred within the past 10 years, with 2017’s Las Vegas shooting killing the most at 58.

August’s El Paso shooting ranks seventh deadliest in US history with 22 deaths.

Updated: September 2, 2019 12:27 AM

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