Odessa Police officers recall chaos, tragedy that was August 31st 2019

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ODESSA, Texas (Big 2/ Fox 24)- “Dispatch broadcasted another gunshot victim. And then another gunshot victim. And it’s just happening sporadically across the city,” said Odessa Police Detective James Santana.

A day that changed the lives of many.
August 31, 2019 wreaked havoc on West Texas.

“I was sitting on the couch watching TV, then I received a call or a text from my cousin,” said Odessa Police Corporal Kaaiako Vavao.

What seemed like a normal day quickly turned devastating. Chaos developing by the second.

“I’m looking at my computer screen trying to get the details of this victim, exactly where he’s at and while I’m doing that bullets start flying through my door. The first one hit me in the leg. The second one hit me in the hand. And I’m still driving at this point. And I’m still hearing shots fired. I’m thinking he’s still shooting me. And I’m thinking so many things at once. I’m thinking I’m about to die,” said Santana.

A relentless pursuit spanning the entire city. Thanks to the brave men and women rushing to the front line of danger, putting their lives at risk, the carnage stopped at Cinergy off of Highway 191.

“I put five more rounds into the passenger door. Just trying to get an idea of where the shooters head was. Because I mean it just had to end. I don’t come into work looking to kill anybody or shoot anybody,” said Vavao.

But Corporal Vavao had to take a life that day.
He killed the man that took seven other innocent lives.
For the officers, now it’s about healing.

“The only thing that still hurts sometimes is my wrist. And the bullet came through my glove and it split and it hit me in two places and it broke my thumb in here. And that’s the only part I have trouble moving sometimes, but they said that would go away eventually,” said Santana.

And moving forward with the help of those around them.

“The support system here at the [Odessa] Police Department and from the community has been amazing to help cope with some of these things that otherwise I probably wouldn’t be able to,” said Vavao.

The road to recovery hasn’t been easy, but they know so many others didn’t have the opportunity to recover.

“It puts a lot of things into perspective. Definitely a new appreciation for life,” said Santana.

Three law enforcement officers were shot that day. OPD Corporal James Santana, DPS Trooper Chuck Pryor and MPD Officer Zack Owens. Fortunately, they are all here to share their stories.

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