The gunman in a West Texas rampage that left seven dead obtained his AR-style rifle through a private sale, allowing him to evade a federal background check that blocked him from getting a gun in 2014 due to a "mental health issue," a law enforcement official tells the AP. The official spoke to the AP Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation. The person did not say when and where the private sale took place. Officers killed 36-year-old Seth Aaron Ator on Saturday outside a busy Odessa movie theater after a spate of violence that spanned 10 miles, injuring around two dozen people in addition to the dead. He spread terror across the two biggest cities in the Permian Basin while firing indiscriminately from his car into passing vehicles and shopping plazas in Midland and Odessa. He also hijacked a US Postal Service mail truck, killing the driver.
Ator had tried purchasing a firearm in January 2014 but was denied, the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement Tuesday. The agency said it was precluded by law from disclosing why, but the law enforcement official told the AP it was due to a "mental health issue." Online court records show Ator was arrested in 2001 for a misdemeanor offense that would not have prevented him from legally purchasing firearms in Texas. Federal law defines nine categories that would legally prevent a person from owning a gun, which include being convicted of a felony, a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, being adjudicated as a "mental defect" or committed to a mental institution, the subject of a restraining order or having an active warrant. Authorities have said Ator had no active warrants at the time of the shooting. (Ator was "on a long spiral down" the day of the shooting.)