Be Our Change – West Texas Strong

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PERMIAN BASIN (Big 2/FOX 24) – A special and emotional edition of Be Our Change, remembering we are “West Texas Strong.”

“This is a community that pulled over and stopped their cars and ran into the sound of gunshots to help us,” said Kelby Davis, daughter injured in a mass shooting.

A mass shooting last year killed seven people and injured 25 more, including three law enforcement officers.

“He brought so much damage, destruction, and heartbreak to this community. Why would you give him any notoriety.? I disagree with speaking his name,” said Chief Michael Gerke, Odessa Police Department.

In this show, we choose to focus on paying tribute to the victims. We also hear from the loved ones of those who lost their lives and reflecting on those last moments.

“What did they do to you? She touched his hands, kind of caressed his hand, and he was gone,” Ana Garcia, sister of a mass shooting victim.

We also hear from the survivors and honor the long list of heroes.

“You need to express to your loved ones how much you love them and know that at any moment they can be taken,” said Chief Seth Herman, Midland Police Department.

ODESSA, Texas – The youngest of the victims was a 17-month old girl at the time. Her parents are now using her story as a way to help others.

“I would not have wanted to live through that tragedy in any other community, because this was a community that supported us from the second it happened,” said Kelby Davis, daughter injured in the mass shooting.

A year later, the memories of that painful and tragic day still fresh for Kelby Davis.

“This is a community that pulled over and stopped their cars and ran into the sound of gunshots to help us,” said Kelby Davis.

The Odessa mother takes us back. It was a typical Saturday for the Davis family. They were headed over to a friend’s house. Dad, Garret, was driving. Mom, Kelby, in the passenger’s seat. The twins, Anderson and Rhett, who were just 17 months old at the time, were riding in rear-facing car seats.

They planned to stop at Market Street on their way and hit a stoplight at 42nd street and JBS Parkway in Odessa when suddenly the day took an unexpected and horrible turn.

“I remember just kind of ducking my head once I heard the shots. Kelby immediately jumped back to check the kids, and that’s when she saw that Anderson was bleeding,” said Garret Davis, daughter injured in the mass shooting.

“She was just covered from her head to her lap; she was covered in blood. I just started screaming, she’s been shot, Anderson’s been shot,” said Kelby Davis.

“I was just kind of numb to it. I was so confused,” said Garret Davis.

The Davis family say they never saw the gunman, but turns out, he shot a bullet through the back of their vehicle.

“The shrapnel hit my daughter Anderson in the chest and mouth. When it hit her in the mouth, it just lodged her in the chest wall. But when it went through her mouth, it went through her bottom lip, knocked out her teeth and burned through her tongue,” said Kelby Davis.

Their nightmare continued, young Anderson in pain, crying for help. Her parents felt helpless. They tried calling 911 more than a dozen times.

“Due to the panic of the city, we were never able to get through to 911,” said Kelby Davis.

But in their panic, a moment that can only be described as fate. Brad Reese and Kellen Foreman, with Odessa Fire Rescue, just so happened to be at a nearby restaurant.

“These two men, truly angels that I truly believe God sent,” said Kelby Davis.

“God works in mysterious ways,” said Garret Davis.

“Where a lot of people, and I don’t blame them, I might have been one of those people, stayed in the restaurant that day when they heard gunshots, Brad and Kellen chose to run towards the gunshots when they didn’t have too, they weren’t on duty,” said Kelby Davis.

Then, another hero enters the picture, Odessa Fire Rescue Captain Jason Cotton. He stopped an ambulance who had another mass shooting victim, so little Anderson could be transported to the hospital as well.

“He just kept screaming, help the baby, help the baby. The baby needs you more than I do, the baby needs you more than I do,” said Kelby Davis.

Kelby doesn’t know that victim’s name, just that he wanted her baby to have priority despite his severe injuries.

These parents have a long list of heroes. Heroes they say they can’t thank enough.

“I want people to remember the good all of our first responders and police did that day,” said Garret.

This family attributes their faith for helping them move forward and Kelby also talked about forgiveness.

“That shooter was once a baby, that shooter was once a little boy. I laid there in that hospital room, and I held my little girl that night, and I prayed my children to grow up to know God and to love God and just to be good humans,” said Kelby Davis. “That is the number one thing. I pray my children, grow up and be a good human. At some point along that way, that didn’t happen for that little boy. He grew up to do a very evil thing that took people’s lives and devastated families and just took so many people. But anger, hate. No, my hearts broken for him, my hearts broken for his family.”

While it’s still difficult to discuss, the Davis family stresses they have so much to be thankful for right now. Anderson is now two years old, and there’s her twin brother, Rhet, who was riding next to her during this horrible ordeal.

Their parents believe they were too young to remember what happened.

“I’m just so proud of her because she’s been a trooper through all the surgeries and everything she’s gone through,” said Garret Davis.

“I think you should use those feelings to spread awareness and to help spread kindness and help use your story to help others,” said Kelby Davis.

We also had a chance to catch up with all three firefighters in little Anderson’s story. The ones they call “heroes.”

“We all have a job to do. We love what we do. We don’t think we’re heroes. We just have a job to do and take care of people best we can,” said Jason Cotton, Odessa Fire Rescue.

“We went out to help people just like everybody in that area did. There were a lot of heroes that day, all over Odessa and Midland. I think we were just one of many that did what we could to help who we could,” said Brad Reese, Odessa Fire Rescue.

“To me, there was nothing about being a hero that day. It was just doing what we’re trained to do,” said Kellen Foreman, Odessa Fire Rescue.

MIDLAND, Texas – A full year has passed since fate brought three West Texans together on August 31st, but all three say they never stopped searching for one another in the months that followed.

Efe Obayagbona recalls being en route to Monahans. Working as an independent contractor, he drove semi-trucks for an oilfield company. Then on that Saturday afternoon, a curveball hit.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it. What I experienced is something I would never wish on my enemy,” explained Obayagbona. “This side just blew up. Just blew up. Shattered — bones and everything, you know? Then the next thing, bullets were just ripping through my truck.”

Obayagbona was hit three times with a bullet on his wrist, arm and ribs. With his left hand, he steered himself to safety where good samaritans quickly came to his rescue. Among the crowd were his two heroes. 

“We were at the right place at the right time, and we were fortunate to help Efe out,” said Alex Esquibel. “I start applying turniquets, Victoria shows up and she assists. He was our number one priority. You know while I’m back there with him, he was talking about his kids. You know, he didn’t want to leave, he was like ‘My kids, my kids, I’ve got kids’.”

Esquibel was working as a deputy for Midland County Sheriff’s Office. He recalls being out on a call when he was rerouted. His colleague, Victoria Reyes, was an investigator with MCSO’s Mental Health Division.

“Never did we ever expect that something like this would ever take place here in Midland,” said Reyes.

While officers were answering their call of duty, for Obayagbona, he will never forget the weight of their swift response to his call for help.

“I just can’t appreciate them enough,” said Obayagbona. “I just wish people can see the other side of our law enforcement officers. What they do, you know?”

In the months following, there was healing and forgiving. But forgetting the kindess of a stranger was not an option.

“I’ve made peace with it,” said Reyes. “I think in our profession we have to in order to heal, and you can’t hold that grudge.”

Going forward, they hope to keep in touch wherever life takes them.

ODESSA, Texas – They’re a labor of love and meant to give hope to those affected by the tragedy of last year’s mass shooting.

Special quilts were blessed on Friday by Pastor Tom Long at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Midland.

The Midland Quilters Guild made about 60 of them in the last few months.

The quilts were made from blocks donated by people from all over the Permian Basin and even as far away as El Paso.

ODESSA, Texas – Odessa’s police chief is reflecting on the mass shooting as well. Chief Michael Gerke hopes the community focuses on the families on the victims.

He’s grateful for the support law enforcement and everyone affected received then and says that same support even continues today.

“This community comes together. Not just Odessa, but the Permian Basin comes together and wraps their arms around those in need. I think it’s a very special area, proud to be here,” said Chief Gerke.

ODESSA, Texas – After the August 31st Mass Shooting, many were left with one question. Why?

According to authorities, the gunman had mental health issues. Now, one family affected by the shooting is working to raise awareness regarding mental health and health care for children in the Permian Basin.

“You never think it’s going to happen to you, but when it does, I pray we have the resources needed to take care of your baby,” said Kelby Davis, daughter injured in a mass shooting.

Kelby Davis knows her family’s story could have had a much different ending, one without little Anderson still here today.

“I want to live in a community that can take care of young children. I understand, there’s so much that goes into that,” said Kelby Davis.

The Odessa mother praises the doctors and nurses at Medical Center Hospital. They did everything they could to help Anderson, but she needed more.

“When your baby is so sick that they need to be in an intensive care unit, the closest is Lubbock,” said Kelby Davis.

“There was a storm around the Lubbock area. They weren’t sure if they were going to go there. They weren’t sure if they were going to be able to carry enough fuel to make it to El Paso,” said Kelby Davis. “We were kind of at a standstill. Then, the storm cleared, and we were able to put her on a helicopter without us to go to Lubbock.”

She and her husband have also transformed their pain into platforms for making a difference when it comes to mental health.

“There is a lot to be said about mental health, and there is a stigma with mental health. I think people are afraid to get help. I think people need to know if you need help, get help. It’s not worth your own life, and it’s not worth other people’s lives,” said Garret Davis, daughter injured in a mass shooting.

“I do pray we’re a community that can support people that are dealing with demons inside of them, and dealing with evil,” said Kelby Davis.

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