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Gunman Was On A 'Downward Spiral,' Texas Authorities Say

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

An update now on the investigation into the mass shooting that happened in West Texas over the weekend. Authorities say the gunman who killed seven people and injured more than 20 others was on a, quote, "downward spiral" long before he opened fire on the streets of Odessa, Texas. Texas Public Radio's Camille Phillips has more.

CAMILLE PHILLIPS, BYLINE: Police say the 36-year-old suspect was fired by Journey Oilfield Services shortly after he went to work on Saturday. But Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs with the FBI says investigators don't believe that's what set him off.

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CHRISTOPHER COMBS: I want to be clear. He showed up to work in a very distressed mental state. But it's not because he got fired. Right? This did not happen because he was fired, which other active shooters have occurred. When he showed up to work, he was already enraged.

PHILLIPS: The FBI says the gunman called a national tip line shortly before he was pulled over for a traffic violation. They say the traffic stop was unrelated to the call. Combs says both the state of the suspect's home and the repeated calls he made to 911 on the day of the shooting illustrate his mental distress.

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COMBS: Most of the calls were just ramblings. Really, just incoherent ramblings in which, frankly, the dispatchers, the call takers, couldn't even figure out what he was talking about.

PHILLIPS: Police shot and killed the suspect. And because the suspect rampage ended with the suspect's death, Odessa police Chief Mike Gerke says they may never know the exact reason the suspect started shooting.

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MIKE GERKE: Who will ever know what the motive is because the only way to determine that is if we could talk to him. And we can't.

PHILLIPS: The city of Odessa has released the names of some of those killed. They include 29-year-old Mary Granados, who was shot when the suspect stole her U.S. postal truck, 25-year-old Edwin Peregrino of Odessa, and 35-year-old Raul Garcia of El Paso. Authorities say the suspect attempted to buy a gun prior to the shooting but failed a federal background check. John Wester with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says law enforcement agencies are, quote, "aggressively investigating" how the suspect obtained the AR-style rifle he used.

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JOHN WESTER: The background check was run through the national instant criminals system, the NICS system. NICS system didn't work. He did apply to get a gun and was denied a gun.

PHILLIPS: As the authorities continue to search for answers, the West Texas community is just starting to mourn. One of the victims was a 15-year-old high school student. The Ector County School District plans to have grief counselors on hand as her classmates return to school following the holiday weekend.

For NPR News, I'm Camille Phillips in Odessa, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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