The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) has deployed crisis-trained chaplains to Texas after seven people were killed and at least 22 others injured when a gunman went on a rampage in Odessa and Midland in Western Texas on Saturday. The gunman was eventually shot to death by police.
“We are saddened by the shootings in Texas,” said Josh Holland, RRT assistant director. “We are fervently praying for all of those impacted by this senseless act of violence and are working with churches and law enforcement in the area to assess how we can help address the emotional and spiritual needs in the area.”
Franklin Graham asked his Facebook followers to pray for those affected: “Pray for the many wounded and for those who have lost loved ones and family members in this senseless act of violence.”
According to authorities, the suspect opened fire just after 3:15 p.m., wounding a Texas Department of Public Safety officer, after being pulled over for failing to use his turn signal. The suspect then fled the scene in his vehicle along Interstate 20, randomly firing at victims in more than 15 different locations.
At one point the suspect, identified by police as Seth Aaron Ator, 36, of Odessa, reportedly abandoned his vehicle and carjacked a U.S. Postal Service van. A cellphone video taken by a witness showed Ator speeding toward a cineplex in the postal van before a police officer in a marked SUV rammed the van on the driver’s side, causing it to spin out and stop. Within seconds, police opened fire on the van, killing Ator.
Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerkesaid that among the 22 people injured, three were law enforcement officers, and one was a 17-month-old girl. The victims killed ranged from age 15 to 57.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott addressed the public in a news conference saying “Too many Texans are dying.”
During the conference, Abbott read a text message from the mother of the toddler who was wounded in the rampage.
“This is all of our worst nightmare,” the mother wrote. “But thank God she is alive and relatively well.”
The shooter’s motive is still unknown but is under investigation, authorities said.