Saturday’s mass shooting in West Texas was different.
Unlike the other shootings that have shaken Texas over the past several years, in which gunmen targeted people who had gathered for a common purpose — at a church, a school, a shopping center — Saturday’s tragedy stretched for miles. From an interstate highway to neighborhood streets to the parking lot of a movie theater, the gunman sowed terror across the Odessa-Midland region.
A former math teacher was shot while sitting at a traffic light with his wife and children. A beloved uncle was hit outside the home he had just moved out of. A high school student bled out after leaving a dealership where her brother had just picked up the keys to his new car.
Police, who have yet to confirm the identities of the victims, raised the death toll to seven on Sunday. Authorities fatally shot the gunman after he fled state troopers and aimed his assault-style rifle at more than 20 people, then pulled the trigger.
The dead ranged from 57 years old to as young as 15, officials said.
The wounded were even younger. A 17-month-old who had her front teeth knocked out — and a hole put through her bottom lip and tongue — will have surgery Monday to remove shrapnel from her chest, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, said Sunday at a news conference. The child will recover, he said.
“Toddlers are funny because they can get shot but still want to run around and play,” the child’s mother told Abbott.
Here are some of the people who did not survive, according to loved ones who spoke to The Washington Post and other media outlets — and the stories of the reeling friends and family they left behind.
Edwin Peregrino, 25
Edwin Peregrino was visiting his parents in Odessa when he heard gunshots outside.
At first, they appeared to be coming from afar.
But when he ran into the yard to investigate, according to his older sister, a gunman sped by and opened fire, killing Peregrino just outside the home he’d moved out of weeks earlier.
“It happened at our home. You think you’re safe at your own house,” Eritizi Peregrino, 23, said in an interview. “You’re not even safe at your own house.”
Eritizi Peregrino’s husband also was shot Saturday afternoon and is recovering, she said. But her brother, who had come to visit for the weekend to talk about his new job and life in San Antonio, did not survive, his sister said.
Edwin was a beloved uncle to two nephews and a niece, she said, but he wanted nothing more than to start his own family. Known for being somewhat of a troublemaker in his youth, Edwin had matured. He took pride in being there for others, and his joking nature remained, serving as a point of comfort for those who knew him.
“You could always count on him for anything,” Eritizi said. “He would always help my parents and his siblings. I knew I could always rely on him and call on him.”
Leilah Hernandez, 15
Leilah Hernandez had just celebrated her quinceanera in May.
Leilah’s grandmother Nora Leyva had been helping the family plan the coming-of-age tradition for two years. Leyva wanted the perfect party for her oldest granddaughter, a 15-year-old who still spent most of her time with her family and who kissed and hugged her “Ama” when she would drop by after school.
The party lived up to the Odessa High School student’s excitement, Leyva said. She looked and felt like a princess in an enormous green dress. “It was like a dream for her,” Leyva said.
Leyva told The Post that Leilah’s mother has been in a kind of daze as she mourns her daughter’s death. She is relieved to be stuck at the Odessa hospital, where dozens of relatives wait for updates on Leilah’s wounded brother, Nathan, still in the intensive care unit, because she dreads going home to Leilah’s room, Leyva said.
Leilah was with her family on Saturday as her 18-year-old brother picked up a truck for which he had long been saving.
Nathan and Leilah were walking out of the dealership — Nathan had the keys in hand — when the gunman started randomly shooting out of his car, according to Leyva.
“I guess he was just looking for someone to kill,” she said.
Leyva’s daughter pushed her 9-year-old son under a car. Nathan wrapped his arms around Leilah, taking a bullet in his right arm. The next shot, Leyva said, went through Leilah’s left shoulder, near her collarbone.
“Help me, help me,” was all the girl said as she died, Leyva said.
It took 20 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. Authorities put pressure on the wound from both sides, but “it was just too much blood coming out,” Leyva said. They told Nathan as they took him away in an ambulance: “Your sister did not make it.”
As news of the shooting spread, Leyva scrambled to get to the hospital where her grandson was being treated, fleeing a mall under lockdown.
Leilah was still figuring out what she wanted to do with her life, Leyva said. She played volleyball, but she had expressed worries to her grandmother that she wasn’t good at it. Last week, Leilah’s mother confided to Leyva that the girl had cried after other students had picked on her at school.
But mostly, Leyva said, Leilah was a happy girl. She was excited to start catechism classes this week. She adored her parents.
“It’s just so hard,” Leyva said. “I’m not going to be seeing her no more.”
The Ector County Independent School District, which includes Odessa High School, acknowledged one of its students is among the dead, though it did not name Leilah. The high school, though, retweeted a post with the hashtag #leilahstrong.
“We are heartbroken and outraged by the violence that struck our community and our school district today,” the district wrote in a statement posted on Facebook. “Our lives have been changed forever.”
Counselors from the school district and the region are “preparing to help our staff, our students and our families through this tragedy,” the district said.
Joseph Griffith, 40
Carla Byrne, the oldest sister of Joseph Griffith, told The Post that her brother was killed by the gunman while sitting at a traffic light with his wife and two children.
“This maniac pulled up next to him and shot him, took away his life, murdered my baby brother. Like nothing,” she said. “We are so broken.”
Byrne recalled her brother’s sense of humor, hallmarked by an uncanny ability to impersonate anyone. But nothing, she said, superseded his devotion to his wife and children.
He worked six days a week to support them, she added.
Griffith was previously a math teacher who developed close bonds with his students, Byrne said. A day before he was killed, a former student had approached Griffith to tell him what an “awesome teacher he was.”
Kaitlyn King, 25, recalled being in Griffith’s seventh-grade math class while attending Goddard Junior High School in Midland more than a decade ago. King, who is “not a math person,” had failed the state’s standardized test the previous year.
To improve on her sixth-grade marks, she needed a teacher who was patient and invested, she said. Enter Griffith, who King says approached every topic with a unique charisma that made his students “want to learn.”
It probably didn’t hurt that he incorporated movies into his curriculum.
“He was a very funny teacher, very serious at the same time,” King said. “He was good at explaining everything.”
She passed her test that year.
Mary Granados, 29
Mary Granados, 29, was nearing the end of her shift as a letter carrier when the gunman hijacked her vehicle, twin sister Rosie Granados told CNN.
Rosie told the network that she heard her sibling scream on the phone as she was shot.
“It was very painful,” she said. “I just wanted to help her, and I couldn’t. I thought she had got bit by a dog or something. I tried calling her name, and she wouldn’t answer.”
Knowing her sister’s mail route, Rosie drove off to find her, CNN reported.
“We are all broken, we are all suffering about this,” she said.
The U.S. Postal Service said in a statement to The Post that it is “shocked and saddened” by the shootings and by the loss of its “postal family member.” It added it is working with law enforcement to aid investigations.
A GoFundMe page is soliciting donations to cover memorial expenses for the Odessa resident, who had been working at the Postal Service for about a year, according to her sister.
“I had the privilege to work with Mary before she started her career at USPS,” wrote Leslie Aide, the creator of the online fundraiser. “She was beautiful inside and out, with a great heart and always ready to be a friend, always had a smile on her face!”