'There was nowhere for us to run,' witness says of West Texas shooting rampage

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist, Japhanie Gray - Reporter, Rob Garza - Photojournalist

MIDLAND, Texas - Long. Chaotic. Stressful. 

That's how one survivor of the West Texas shooting rampage described his Saturday, which ended with the deaths of seven people.

Ricky Lobo said he was at the Cinergy Movie Center when an officer kicked in the door and turned on the lights. There was an active shooter in the area.

"They were like: 'This is not a drill. This is serious,'" Lobo recalled. "'Get out of the building. Let's go. Everybody, as quick as possible.' It turned into chaos after that."

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He said people were climbing on top of each other trying to exit the auditorium in a panic. When they exited the theater, Lobo said police directed them to a nearby field.

"That's when you heard the tires screeching," Lobo said. "You hear him smash into the police cars."

Lobo said that the gunman, identified by authorities as Seth Aaron Ator, smashed into police cars blocking access to the theater. Ator, Lobo said, then got out of the wrecked car, reached for a long rifle and took aim at the group of moviegoers evacuated to the field.

"He started shooting at everyone," Lobo said. "Everyone hit the dirt. I hit the dirt. I was facing the shooter to see what was going to happen next."

Lobo said police engaged Ator, giving some moviegoers a chance to run for cover behind a nearby garbage compactor.

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"We've got an open street that way and danger over here," Lobo said motioning to the field and street. "There was nowhere for us to run."

The early death toll was reported to be five people but quickly rose to seven by Sunday. At least 22 people were injured in the attack, including a 17-month-old girl who was hit in the face by shrapnel. Three law enforcement officers were also injured.

"There were husbands. Wives. A little girl got shot in her mouth. It was sick," Lobo said.

That fact alone rocked Alex Vanderpool, who said he was on the road when he looked into his rearview mirror and saw a vehicle matching the description of the one police said was involved in a shooting.

Vanderpool said it was bone-chilling to be caught up in the situation, thinking what could have happened if he'd done anything differently that day.

"I actually sent my daughter home a day early so I can move down here," Vanderpool said. "And right here where we are standing, I would have been with my daughter when the shooting is happening right over there."

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Lobo and Vanderpool both said it would take an act from lawmakers to prevent further gun violence, but Lobo said he doesn't think it's a gun problem plaguing the U.S. 

"I don't feel like guns kill people. I feel like people kill people," Lobo said. "I am a gun owner. I personally don't think there is anything I could have done today if I would have been armed."

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