Texas shooter bought gun in private sale, after ban due to mental illness: ABC

A man holds flowers and a candle as people gather for a vigil following Saturday's shooting in Odessa, Texas, U.S. September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

(Reuters) – The gunman who killed seven people and wounded 23 others in a rampage across West Texas on Saturday obtained the assault-style rifle used through a private sale after he was banned from having a firearm because he was diagnosed with a mental illness, media reported.

Seth Aaron Ator is pictured in Odessa, Texas, U.S. in this undated handout photo provided by the Odessa Police Department on September 3, 2019. Odessa Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

Seth Aaron Ator is pictured in Odessa, Texas, U.S. in this undated handout photo provided by the Odessa Police Department on September 3, 2019. Odessa Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

The gunman, identified as Seth Aaron Ator, 36, carried out the shooting spree in the neighboring cities of Midland and Odessa, shortly after he was fired from his trucking job. He called local emergency 911 responders and then an FBI tip line to make rambling statements, but did not threaten to commit violence, officials said.

After the calls, Ator opened fire on civilians and police officers in a roving series of shootings, at one point hijacking a U.S. Postal Service truck before dying in an exchange of gunfire with law enforcement, police said.

Ator bought the assault-style rifle through a private sale after being prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm because he had been diagnosed with a mental illness by a clinician, ABC news reported, citing federal and local law enforcement.

Private firearm sellers are not required to run background checks on potential buyers, but they are not allowed to sell a weapon to a person who has been flagged by law enforcement under federal law.

Democrats in Congress want to close such loopholes that allow certain people to sell firearms without requiring background checks, such as in sales conducted online, at gun shows or out of their homes.

Ator had been rejected when he tried to buy a gun and his name was run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, said John Wester, assistant special agent in charge of the Dallas office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

President Donald Trump called the Odessa-Midland shooter “a very sick person,” but said increased background checks on gun buyers would not have prevented many mass shootings in the United States in the past few years.

Trump said last month he had spoken to the National Rifle Association gun rights group about closing loopholes in background checks, but he did not want to take away the constitutional right to own guns.

The rampage followed the Aug. 3 shooting in El Paso, Texas, by a man from the Dallas area, in a massacre that killed 22 people. El Paso is about 255 miles (410 km) west of Midland.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Texas gunman who killed seven had previously failed background check for firearm

A man holds flowers and a candle as people gather for a vigil following Saturday's shooting in Odessa, Texas, U.S. September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) – The gunman who killed seven people and wounded 23 others in a rolling rampage across West Texas obtained an assault-style rifle despite failing a background check, state and law enforcement officials said on Monday.

The gunman, identified by police as Seth Aaron Ator, 36, carried out the shooting spree in the neighboring cities of Midland and Odessa on Saturday, a short time after he was fired from his trucking job. He called local emergency 911 responders and then an FBI tip line to make rambling statements, officials said.

In those calls, Ator did not threaten to commit violence, they said.

But he would soon go on to open fire on civilians and police officers in a roving series of shootings, at one point hijacking a U.S. Postal Service truck before dying in an exchange of gunfire with law enforcement, police said.

It was the second mass shooting in Texas in four weeks, and the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott, expressed frustration on Monday the suspect had a firearm.

“We must keep guns out of criminals’ hands,” Abbott said on Twitter.

Ator was rejected when he tried to buy a gun and his name was run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, John Wester, assistant special agent in charge of the Dallas office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told a news conference.

Authorities could not immediately say how he obtained a firearm, Wester added.

It also was not immediately clear when or why he had failed the background check. Online court records showed Ator had convictions in 2002 for criminal trespass and evading arrest.

But Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke told a news conference on Monday that Ator’s past interactions with police in that area, where the gunman lived, were not serious enough to have legally prevented him from having a firearm.

President Donald Trump over the weekend called the Odessa-Midland shooter “a very sick person,” but said increased background checks on gun buyers would not have prevented many mass shootings in the United States in the past few years.

Democrats in Congress want to close loopholes that under federal law, allow certain people to sell firearms without requiring background checks, such as in sales conducted online, at gun shows or out of their homes.

Trump said last month he had spoken to the National Rifle Association gun rights group about closing loopholes in background checks but he did not want to take away the constitutional right to own guns.

PULLED OVER

Hours after he was fired from his trucking job and 15 minutes after he called the FBI tip line, Ator was pulled over in a sedan by Texas state troopers on Interstate 20 in Midland for failing to use a turn signal, police said.

Armed with an AR-type rifle, Ator fired out the back window of his gold-colored car, wounding one trooper. Then he drove away spraying gunfire indiscriminately, the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

At one point, Ator abandoned his car and hijacked a U.S. postal van, mortally wounding the letter carrier, identified by officials as Mary Grandos, 29.

He shot seven people to death, leaving behind a trail of 15 crime scenes with 23 other people wounded in the rampage, officials said.

Three police officers were shot and wounded – one from Midland, one from Odessa and one state trooper – all in stable condition at hospitals.

Ator was later cornered by officers in the parking lot of a cinema complex in Odessa where he was shot and killed.

The FBI has scoured Ator’s home, Christopher Combs, special agent in charge of the FBI office in San Antonio, told a news conference on Monday.

“I can tell you the conditions reflect what we believe his mental state was going into this,” Combs said.

“He was on a long spiral of going down. He didn’t wake up Saturday morning and walk into his company and then it happened. He went into that company in trouble. He’s probably been in trouble for a while,” Combs said.

The rampage came about a month after a gunman from the Dallas area killed 22 people on Aug. 3 at a Walmart store about 255 miles (410 km) west of Midland in El Paso, Texas.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Peter Cooney)

Texas shooting suspect’s mother alerted police about his gun ownership: CNN

A group of people hold candles during a vigil at a memorial four days after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

(Reuters) – The Dallas-area mother of the young man arrested in the mass shooting that killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas, had called police weeks earlier expressing concern about his fitness to own an assault-style rifle, CNN said on Wednesday.

The mother contacted the Allen Police Department because she worried whether her son, aged 21, was mature or experienced enough in handling such a weapon to have purchased an “AK”-type firearm, CNN said, citing lawyers for the suspect’s family.

CNN quoted the lawyers, Chris Ayres and R. Jack Ayres, as saying the mother’s call was “informational” in nature rather than motivated by concern that her son posed a threat to anyone.

“This was not a volatile, explosive, erratic-behaving kid,” Chris Ayres told the network. “It’s not like alarm bells were going off.”

CNN said it was not known whether the gun the mother inquired about was the same weapon police said was used in Saturday’s attack. Authorities have said they are investigating the attack as a hate crime and an act of domestic terrorism.

Police say the suspect, Patrick Crusius, a white male from the Dallas suburb of Allen, drove some 650 miles (1,046 km) to the west Texas border city of El Paso before opening fire at a Walmart store there.

Most of the 22 people killed were Hispanic, including eight Mexican citizens. At least two dozen people were injured. The suspect, who surrendered to police, has been charged with capital murder.

A racist, anti-immigrant manifesto believed by authorities to have been written by the suspect was posted online shortly before the attack, which the author called a “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

During his mother’s query to Allen police weeks earlier, according to her attorneys, she was transferred to a public safety officer who told her that based on her description of her son, he was legally allowed to buy the weapon in question, CNN said.

The mother, the lawyers told the network, did not give police her son’s name, and police did not seek any additional information from her before the call ended.

Attempts by Reuters to reach the attorneys cited in CNN’s story on Wednesday night were unsuccessful. Allen police were also not immediately available to discuss the report.

A statement posted by Allen police on Twitter this week, in response to media inquiries about the suspect’s prior encounters with law enforcement, listed just three relatively minor contacts in department records.

The most recent, in March, was a false burglar alarm reported by the suspect at his grandparents’ home, a call police said “was cleared without incident according to protocol.”

In 2016, the suspect was a passenger on a school bus involved in a minor accident investigated by police, and in 2014, he was reported as a juvenile runaway, but returned home without incident about 30 minutes later, police said.

Police told CNN those three incidents represent “the entirety of our dealings with Mr. Crusius, in any capacity, be it suspect, witness, reporting party, or in any other manner.”

CNN quoted an unnamed source familiar with the family as describing Crusius as undecided about his life, having considered transferring from a community college to a four-year university, enlisting in the military and seeking a full-time job.

“He was trying to figure out what to do next,” the source said. “When did the wheels come off? We don’t know.”

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)