UTPD, Red Cross leave Austin to help victims in Odessa mass shooting

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texas organizations are sending support to Odessa following the mass shooting on Saturday. 

Investigators said a gunman, who was fired from his trucking job Saturday morning, called Odessa police and an FBI tip line just minutes before the shooting began.  

Officials said he rambled but didn’t make any threats. At this point, investigators don’t know where he got the rifle.  

“The background check was run through the national system, the NICS system. The NICS system did work when he tried to buy a gun; he was denied a gun,” said John Wester with the ATF. 

The gunman shot 29 people, killing seven.

“Everywhere you go you hear Odessa Strong, Permian Basin strong,” said Veronica Ramirez, the Regional Communications Manager for the American Red Cross. Ramirez and her team have been in West Texas since news of the shooting first broke.

She said the home to Friday night football has a different spotlight on it. 

“It’s really just the community as a whole that needs to heal,” Ramirez said. 

“He’s shooting at innocent civilians, creating victims,” Chief Michael Gerke of the Odessa Police Department said as he explained the rampage the gunman went on between Midland and Odessa. 

In the wake of the mass shooting, Central Texans are providing support where they can. The Red Cross has 37 volunteers deployed. These men and women are counseling families, assisting police and helping the community. 

Several members of the University of Texas police department are also in Odessa. A UTPD spokesperson said these are officers with the “rapid response team,” a group of first responders who are specifically trained to handle active shooter situations. 

UTPD Chief David Carter posted a picture online, showing his officers standing guard at an Odessa crime scene at sunrise. Officials said, with the help of other police departments, they have reduced the number of crime scenes from 15 down to two.

“The resources that have been made to us have been astronomical and absolutely appreciated,” Chief Gerke said. 

Ramirez said two mass shootings in Texas within the past month can be traumatic, no matter where you live. She said now is the time to reach out to your loved one and make sure they are ok. 

“We’re all one big great state and we are all here to support each other,” Ramirez said. “Helping your neighbor, being there for them, being a shoulder for them to lean on and talk to.”  

Trauma Coping and Preparedness Tips 

This is a difficult time for everyone affected and it’s important for people to connect with and support each other. The Red Cross offers the following tips to help people stay strong: 

  • Events like this can cause feelings of uncertainty and anxiety since no one knows what could potentially happen next. Remember that it’s okay to feel nervous. 
  • Stay informed but limit media exposure of the events, especially for children. Children are especially vulnerable to stress reactions related to media. 
  • Parents should let children talk about their fears and then reassure them about their safety. Talk with them in ways that they can easily understand. Let them guide the conversation; share details only when they ask about them. 
  • Be patient with yourself and others. It’s common to have any number of temporary stress reactions such as anger, frustration and anxiety. 
  • Spend more time with family and friends and offer your support. Hug one another and listen. 
  • Watch for signs of stress in your family, friends and children. Get help from others if needed. 
  • Take care of yourself. Eat healthily, drink plenty of water and get enough rest.

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