People grieve in Permian Basin as investigation into deadly Odessa shooting continues

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ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar) — The people of the Permian Basin are grieving. Less than a day after a gunman shot and killed seven people before he himself was killed by law enforcement, community members gathered to mourn at a vigil on the campus of University of Texas Permian Basin.

Travis Franklin, left, Holden Ewing, center, and Corey Szitta, right, hold flags while attending a vigil, a day after a gunman killed 7 people and hurt more than 20 others in Odessa, Texas during the holiday weekend. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

“There’s really nothing that sums up what strife you’re going through,” Travis Franklin said. Franklin and two of his friends, Holden Ewing and Corey Szitta, came to Sunday’s vigil each holding a flag— an American flag, a Texas flag and a flag representing the thin blue line honoring law enforcement. The trio knew some of the victims in Saturday’s deadly attack.

“It’s our community,” Ewing said, explaining why they made a point of coming to the vigil during “hard times like this.”

The three young men said they were worried about going outside, fearful for their safety and the safety of their community, and terrified, which was something they never expected to feel in Odessa.

Law enforcement investigators comb through evidence where authorities took down a gunman suspected of killing 7 people and hurting more than 20 others in Odessa, Texas during the holiday weekend. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

Investigators have worked around the clock to process evidence. Some of the same federal officials who were involved in the aftermath of the Sutherland Springs church shooting in November 2017, are part of the team working the Odessa shooting.

“The connection between the FBI, the DPS, Odessa Police is built on, unfortunately, experience of working together,” FBI Special Agent in Charge, Christopher Combs, said at a Sunday press conference with other law enforcement and elected officials including Gov. Greg Abbott.

Texas has seen four deadly mass-shootings in less than two years. The fall of 2017 had the Sutherland Springs church shooting where 26 people died and 20 others were hurt. Spring of 2018 brought the Santa Fe High School shooting, which caused 10 deaths and 13 people wounded. 22 people died and more than two dozen people were injured in a racially-motivated attack at an El Paso Walmart earlier in August. Saturday’s deadly shooting-spree resulted in 7 deaths and 22 people recovering in West Texas hospitals.

A woman wears a “West Texas Strong” shirt and holds a copy of the New Testament at a vigil a day after a gunman killed 7 people and hurt more than 20 others in Odessa, Texas during the holiday weekend. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

“I’m heartbroken by the crying of the people of the state of Texas. I’m tired of the dying of the people of the state of Texas,” Abbott said on Sunday. “Too many Texans are in mourning. Too many Texans have lost their lives.”

This latest violent episode has increased the pressure for lawmakers and other state leaders to act on gun legislation.

“We have a sense of urgency to arrive at solutions,” Abbott said, when pressed, at Sunday’s press conference.

A possible solution proposed by Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis includes reopening prisons he says are closing at high rates. Griffis urged lawmakers to strengthen penalties on criminals.

“Somebody has got to be in fear of the consequences if they commit a crime,” Griffis said.

“I hope Austin calls me because they will darn sure get my opinion on that,” he said, wishing lawmakers would ask his input.

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