September 4, 2019 731 PM
PRESIDIO — Presidio County Sheriff’s Deputy Andrea Hinojos was on patrol Saturday when she saw news of the Midland-Odessa shooting on social media. Soon, she received a text from her son’s father: “They shot my mom.”
Hinojos started panicking about the fate of Esperanza Carrasco, her mother-in-law and the grandmother of her 9-year-old son. A Presidio native, Carrasco moved to Odessa for work two years ago.
After speaking to her son’s father, Hinojos learned with relief that it was a false alarm. The bullet had not hit Carrasco; it had just struck the hood of her vehicle as she was driving. Carrasco did not sustain any gunshot wounds in the incident.
After two West Texas mass shootings in less than a month, which together killed at least 30 people, it doesn’t take confirmed injuries or fatalities to send a family into panic. “I was scared,” Hinojos said. “I got very emotional, and I didn’t know if I should call her or wait.”
As the shooting unfolded, Carrasco took shelter in a nearby store. When she first arrived there, no one in the store knew what was going on.
Once Hinojos learned her mother-in-law was okay, she texted her. Carrasco called her back.
”She told me, ‘I’m inside a store. We’re on a lockdown,’” Hinojos said.
Over the next hour, gunman Seth Ator killed seven and wounded almost two dozen more on the roads from Midland to Odessa. The shooting finally ended when law enforcement fatally shot Ator in a movie theater parking lot.
Though the gunman had previously failed a background check and was denied the opportunity to buy a gun, he was later able to purchase the weapon used in the shooting from a sale by a private citizen. In Texas, private sales do not require background checks, nor do gun shows or online sales. These legal loopholes persist even as criminals take advantage of them to carry out mass gun violence.
In a statement on Twitter, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, “Not only did the Odessa gunman have a criminal history, he also previously failed a gun purchase background check in Texas and he didn’t go thru [sic] a background check for the gun he used in Odessa. We must keep guns out of criminals’ hands.” But Abbott has not yet suggested closing the very loophole that allowed the tragedy in Odessa.
Ator began his rampage during a routine traffic stop, when he failed to signal a left turn and was stopped by a Department of Public Safety officer. Along his path of destruction, Ator shot three law enforcement officers.
Hinojos never thought a mass shooting incident would affect someone she knew. Though the near-brush with family tragedy was “really scary,” it’s done little to change her views on guns or the carnage associated with them.
“There’s nothing wrong with having guns,” she said. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill other people.”
As a law enforcement official in Presidio County, she had rarely thought about how quickly a routine traffic stop could turn into something bad. There’s always “the chance that something’s going to happen,” she said. “You just never know when.”