There is new information about the man who committed mass
murder in a shooting rampage in Midland and Odessa, Texas over the weekend.
While the man apparently did not have a recent criminal record, he allegedly
did commit acts that would be considered “red flags” before his killing spree.
York Post reports that two of 36-year-old Seth Ator’s neighbors reported the
man’s threatening behavior. One neighbor reported Ator to police last month after
he had threatened her with a rifle for leaving trash near his property. The
woman said that Ator would often sit on top of his house and shoot animals at
night and then retrieve the bodies. The woman reported Ator’s threatening
behavior to police, but they could not find his house because it did not have an
accurate address for GPS navigation.
The woman said that Ator’s house did not have electricity or
running water and that he would sleep in his car with the heat on in extremely
cold weather. Photos of a house believed to be Ator’s published in online news
media such as Heavy show a barn-like structure with a boxy addition on the roof that resembles a
A second neighbor also told the Post that Ator had
threatened her with his rifle. It was not clear if this incident had been reported
to police, but the woman said that Ator owned at least two guns.
A third neighbor told Heavy that Ator “didn’t bother
Ator had a criminal
record, but it was almost two decades old. He had pled guilty to criminal
trespass and evading arrest in 2002. Both crimes are misdemeanors in Texas. This
would not have prevented him from legally buying a gun since only misdemeanors
that are related to assault are disqualifying under Texas
law. Even then, people convicted of misdemeanors are allowed to possess
guns after five years. Rep. Tom
Craddick, a Texas Republican, said that Ator had failed a background check
but did not say when the check occurred. So far, there has been no confirmation
of that claim except for a nonspecific tweet by Gov. Greg Abbott. The Washington
Examiner also reported that Ator had received a traffic citation in 2018
for a federal motor carrier safety violation.
Additional reports say that Ator was fired
from his job as a truck driver shortly before he was stopped by Texas
Department of Public Safety troopers for a failure to signal a left turn in his
personal auto. During the traffic stop, Ator pulled out what police describe as
an “AR-style rifle” and attacked the officers. He then drove away and fired at
innocent civilians as he drove through the neighboring towns of Midland and
Unlike mass killings and serial murders years ago in which
neighbors often said that the perpetrator was normal and not suspicious, in
many modern rampage killings there are a number of warnings before the
massacre. In the case of the Odessa murders, the killer exhibited threatening
behavior on at least two occasions. Frequently shooting animals from his roof
could be a red flag as well, although the report is not specific about Ator’s
to animals (which does not traditional hunting) is an early warning sign
for many murderers.
Even though Ator exhibited classic red flag warning signs,
red flag laws may not have prevented this specific killing spree. Laws vary by
state and in many cases only a close relative can petition to have guns taken
from a person who shows signs of potential violence. With only two neighbors experiencing
his threatening behavior and no recent criminal history, a red flag statute
might not have been triggered.
Texas Gov. Greg
Abbott said over the weekend that “Words must be met with action” but has
not backed any specific new laws yet although red flag laws have gained
widespread popularity among both parties. Recent polling shows about 70
percent support for the measures.