1 year after Odessa mass shooting, survivor wants better screenings for gun ownership

Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — One year after 46-year-old Efe Obayagbona was seriously injured in the Midland-Odessa mass shooting, he and his family find themselves in their Pflugerville home filled with gratitude for the people who helped him survive. Obayagbona also wants to see stricter measures put into place to screen potential gun owners and avoid putting guns in the hands of people who “aren’t meant to have them.”

A photo of Efe Obayagbona, his wife Ivie Osagie and their three children. Photo Courtesy Efe Obayagbona.

On Aug. 31, 2019, a mass shooting unfolded from Midland to Odessa, Texas, with seven people killed and 25 others injured. A man carried out the shooting spree with an AR-style firearm over the course of 10 miles along I-20 during a car chase, which concluded when he was killed by police.

At the time, Obayagbona was driving a truck for the oil company he worked for and was struck by the gunfire.

For two years, he had been working in the Permian Basin, driving back to Central Texas to see his wife and three young children on the weekends. His wife, Ivie Osagie, found out what happened when she called him, and an ICU nurse answered the phone.

Obayagbona had been shot three times that day while driving his truck on his work route. A bullet shattered his right wrist and hit his left arm, another bullet hit his ribs, and the last went through his chest, leaving bullet fragments in his lungs.

Blood splattered on the side of the truck Efe Obayagbona was driving when he was shot along I-20. Photo Courtesy Efe Obayagbona.

He recalled the force of the bullets pushed him out of his seat, even though he was seat-belted. Obayagbona remembered exiting the truck and begging for help from people who passed by on the road. A group of Good Samaritans came to his aid, eventually flagging down Midland County Sheriff’s Office employees who were able to take him to the hospital.

“If they weren’t there, I don’t know what would have happened, maybe yesterday would have been a year of remembrance,” Obayagbona said, fully aware of how close he could have been to dying if he did not get help.

Obayagbona and his family spoke with KXAN a year ago. One year later, he tells KXAN he wants “to thank everyone for their support and their community.”

He wants to let his loved ones know “he is doing fine, with thanks and with God’s help.”

A photo of Efe Obayagbona, his wife Ivie Osagie and their three children. Photo Courtesy Efe Obayagbona.

For the first five days after the shooting, Obayagbona was hospitalized. He still faces major challenges with his right hand and arm; he had surgery done in May to try and repair some of the damage. He feels guilty that when his children run to him, he doesn’t have the ability to pick them up right now. But Obayagbona is also very aware that he is lucky, others who did not survive that day have left their loved ones altogether.

While Obayagbona is physically recovering, he notes the shock of being a survivor of a mass shooting sticks with him. He sometimes has flashbacks and nightmares about the shooting.

When he thinks about what happened that day, he also thinks about how the shooter, 36-year-old Seth Ator, was able to access the AR-style firearm.

The Odessa American notes that Ator reportedly failed a background check when he attempted to purchase a firearm in 2014 because he had previously been adjudicated “a mental defective” and was temporarily committed to an institution. The paper also reported that Ator illegally got the weapon used in the 2019 shooting through a Kentucky gun parts manufacturer.

Last week, the families of two people killed in the mass shooting filed a lawsuit against the person who supplied the firearm Ator used that day for more than $1 million in damages.

Obayagbona doesn’t have one specific policy in mind, but he said he would like to see politicians place more restrictions on gun purchases.

“Go deep down and check their background, check their mental health and all that,” he said.

“If they can’t come together and actually find a way to actually put a stop to these mass shootings, I don’t know when, I don’t know where it will stop.”

Obayagbona added that he would like to see “the politicians to come together and really actually find amicable ground to talk about it, they should take away guns from the people who are not meant to be carrying those guns. “

In addition to these policy points, Obayagbona also wants to thank the deputy and other Good Samaritans who came to his rescue.

In an interview with KXAN’s Midland sister station, Obayagbona got to reunite with Alex Esquibel, the Midland County Sheriff’s Deputy who came to his aid, and Victoria Reyes, the Midland County Sheriff’s Office Mental Health Division Investigator who also assisted on the day of the shooting.

Efe Obayagbona (left) pictured with the sheriff’s deputy (right) who came to his rescue and took him to the hospital on Aug. 31, 2019. Obayagbona was seriously injured during a mass shooting along I-20 when he was driving a truck for work. (Courtesy: Obayagbona’s family)

KMID reporter JuYeon Kim joined Obayagbona, Esquibel and Reyes as they reunited on a Zoom call a year after the tragedy brought them together.

“We were at the right place at the right time, and we were fortunate to help Efe out,” Esquibel said.

“Never did we ever expect that something like this would ever take place here in Midland,” Reyes noted.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it. What I experienced is something I would never wish on my enemy,” explained Obayagbona. “This side just blew up. Just blew up. Shattered — bones and everything, you know? Then the next thing, bullets were just ripping through my truck.”

He recalled using his left hand to steer himself off the road to safety as Good Samaritans came to his rescue.

“He was our number one priority,” Esquibel remembered of that day. “You know, while I’m back there with him, he was talking about his kids. You know, he didn’t want to leave, he was like ‘My kids, my kids, I’ve got kids.’”

Obayagbona continued to express his gratitude for the people who helped get him the care he needed.

“I just can’t appreciate them enough,” said Obayagbona. “I just wish people can see the other side of our law enforcement officers. What they do, you know?”

In the interview with KXAN Wednesday, Obayagbona was brimming with gratitude for the people who helped him on the day of the shooting.

“I wish I could call them every day and just thank them, it seems I am not thanking them enough for what they did,” he said. “For them to stop on the highway, help someone who is dying, it’s something that … I wish I could just hold all of them and give all of them a kiss,” he added with a smile.

He noted that the MCSO employees who took him to the hospital stayed with him there for a full seven hours until the doctors told them Obayagbona was going to be alright.

“They showed what is called love,” he summarized. “I appreciate each and every one of them that were there that day.”

Wes Rapaport and JuYeon Kim contributed to this report.

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