Texas shootings that left 5 dead and 21 injured started with a traffic stop

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After the shooting during a traffic stop Saturday in Midland, the gunman drove on the streets and highway, spraying bullets on residents and motorists, police said.

He then hijacked a postal truck and randomly shot at people as he made his way into Odessa about 20 miles away. There, police killed him in a gun battle in a movie theater parking lot.

The victims injured Saturday included a 17-month-old girl and three law enforcement officers, hospital and police officials said.

It’s unclear why police had pulled over the unidentified gunman or what his motive was. Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke described him as a white male in his 30s, but declined to provide additional information.

The attack during the busy Labor Day weekend terrified residents in a state where a gunman killed 22 people less than a month ago at a Walmart in El Paso — about 285 miles west of Odessa.

Texas police and sheriff's deputies surround an area behind Cinergy in Odessa after reports of shootings Saturday.

He grabbed his rifle and pointed it at officers

The terrifying afternoon started at 3:13 p.m. local time.

Two troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety stopped a lone driver during a traffic stop on westbound Interstate 20 in Midland, authorities said.

Before the vehicle came to a complete stop, the man grabbed a rifle, pointed it out his rear window and fired toward the troopers’ patrol unit, wounding one of the troopers, said Lt. Elizabeth Carter of the Department of Public Safety.

The shooter then drove west into Odessa and continued firing as he drove through the city and around shopping centers, the police chief said.

He abandoned his vehicle, stole a mail truck and shot at more people as he drove toward the Cinergy movie theater, where he exchanged fire with officers in the parking lot.

Of the three injured law enforcement officers, one was from the Department of Public Safety, one from the Midland Police Department and one from Odessa Police Department.

Police have not released details on the fatalities and the US Postal Service declined to comment on the condition of the mail carrier whose truck was stolen. The Ector County school district in Odessa said one of its students was among those killed.

The 17-month-old was airlifted to University Medical Center in Lubbock, where she was in satisfactory condition, hospital officials said.

Police and sheriff's deputies surround the area behind Cinergy movie theater in Odessa, Texas.

A witness describes shootout with officers

Alex Woods drove up to the movie theater about five minutes before the shootout and saw several police vehicles with flashing lights.

“There was just police everywhere and there was a bunch of people behind the theater in the field walking and next thing you know this gunfire is going off,” he said. “I hear a pop, so, I flip the camera to where the theater’s at and I just see a bunch of gunfire going off.”

Woods said he saw the officer walk up to the mail van and fire into it. “I believe that is when the shooter was killed,” he added.

The gun battle did not last long, he said, describing the incident as surreal.

“I never thought it would happen in life,” he said. “It just all happened so quickly.”

Mike Barrett said his friend was shot and hospitalized with injuries.

“He was on the way home, him and his wife … he got shot,” Barrett said. “It went through the door of the car and shot him right in his side … his wife was just covered in blood.”

Texas gun laws to go into effect today

The shooting happened hours before a series of firearm laws go into effect in Texas, where four of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern US history have occurred.

The new measures will loosen gun restrictions, and include laws that allow weapons on school grounds, apartments and places of worship.

After the shooting Saturday, Democratic presidential candidates issued statements calling for gun reform.

“Our hearts are with Midland, Odessa, and everyone in West Texas who has to endure this again … We need to end this epidemic,” Texas native Beto O’Rourke tweeted.

Julián Castro, another Democratic presidential candidate, said the shootings will continue if no action is taken. “We have to be more honest with ourselves. This is going to happen again. And again,” he tweeted.

Vice President Mike Pence said he and President Donald Trump are determined to work with Congress “to address and confront this scourge of mass atrocity in our country.”

CNN’s Ralph Ellis and Ed Lavandera ontributed to this report.

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