TOP STORIES: Mass shooting brings heartbreak and unity

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ODESSA, Texas (Big 2/Fox 24) – The Labor Day Weekend in Midland and Odessa is one that won’t soon be forgotten.

On the afternoon of August 31st, chaos and what most would consider the worst possible scenario, occurred between the neighboring cities.

It began in Midland County when DPS Troopers pulled over the suspect on Interstate 20 for a traffic violation. During the stop authorities say the suspect opened fire, injuring a trooper at the scene.

The suspect them made his way though Odessa firing at people along the Interstate and in the city. Eventually, the shooter arrived in central Odessa were he hijacked a mail truck, killed the driver and continued on the spree, police reported.

In the midst of the shooting spree, viewer submitted video showed residents in fear as they watched officers fly down local roads, or running from the various shooting scenes. But other videos displayed the bravery of some who guided others out of the movie theater or to safety along the path of the shooter. It showed officers selflessly putting their lives on the line to protect the cities they serve.

FILE – In this Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, file photo, law enforcement officials process the crime scene from Saturday’s shooting which ended with the shooter, Seth Ator, being shot dead by police in a stolen mail van, right, in Odessa, Texas. Within minutes of media outlets identifying the gunman who killed seven people in West Texas, a Twitter account was spreading false information linking the shooter to Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. The speed of the misinformation again illustrates the eagerness of some to baselessly blame mass shootings on particular political ideologies. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

And finally, it all came to an end at Cinergy between the two cities, thanks to heroism and quick thinking of local law enforcement officers.

In total, more than 20 were injured in the shooting and seven were killed.

Those who were killed included:

  • Raul Garcia
  • Kameron Brown
  • Rodolfo “Rudy” Arco
  • Edwin Peregrino
  • Mary Granados
  • Joe Griffith
  • Leila Hernandez

Despite the chaos, fear and uncertainty, the West Texas spirit was on full display during those tense moments.

Citizens donated money for the victims, they took items to law enforcement officers to show their appreciation and the community rallied together, taking a unified stance that day in August.

Thousands of dollars were raised for victims, makeshift memorials sprung up to honor their memory and many cheered on those who were injured as they were released from local health care facilities.

A bouquet of flowers was left outside Odessa High School on Sept. 2, 2019, to honor Leilah Hernandez, 15. Hernandez, a student there, was killed by a gunman in a mass-shooting in the West Texas city over the weekend. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

The shooting even prompted visits from local lawmakers like Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn. Even Beto O’Rourke made his way to the Permian Basin.

Each met with local officials, expressed their condolences to the communities that were impacted and vowed to fight future mass violence.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott talks a mass shooting in Odessa during a news conference Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas. (Mark Rogers/Odessa American via AP)

Governor Greg Abbott also made his way to Odessa in the aftermath of the shootings. The Governor met with local leaders, hospital staff and more during his visit. Abbott too would call for answers to the growing threat of mass violence during his visit.

Since the shooting, both the Senate and House select Committees on mass violence prevention have met in Odessa to discuss solutions.

While those solutions are still being debated in Washington and throughout Texas, what was at the beginning remains to this day.

A community was shaken by the tragic events that unfolded, but not sunk with fear. Instead, West Texans did what they do best, they reached out with a helping hand to those in need, rallied together and made a positive impact in a difficult time.

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