Things That Matter

Another Texas Shooting Kills 7, Including Teen Who Just Celebrated Her Quince

It started as a minor traffic violation stop in Midland, Texas, when the driver took aim at the citing officer and engaged in a 20 mile-long shooting spree that ended in Odessa, Texas. Today, families are mourning the 7 people killed, and praying for the recovery of 19 people who were injured in Odessa, Texas. Among the dead is Leila Hernandez. She was 15 years old, and had just celebrated her quinceañera. Her brother, Nathan, remains hospitalized, recovering from a surgery to treat his injuries.

Authorities have not released the name of the shooter, but say he was a white man in his 30’s.

Police have not yet confirmed a motive, or the identity of the shooter.

@JamesMelville / Twitter

The shooter was pulled over by a Texas Department of Public Safety officer on Saturday at 3 p.m. for a minor traffic violation, when he opened fire on the officer. As the gunman fled the scene along I-20 toward Odessa, he embarked on a shooting spree, killing and injuring people along the way. At one point, he abandoned his car to hijack a mail truck, which he drove to nearby movie theater, where he would later die during a shoot-out with police. The rampage has left reports of 19 to 21 people injured, including three police officers.

Of the victims is Mary Granados, a postal service worker who was killed as the suspect hijacked her truck.

Leslie Aide / GoFundMe

Mary was on the phone with her twin sister, Rosie, when the shooter attacked her. “It was very painful. I just wanted to help her and I couldn’t. I thought she had got bite by a dog or something. I tried calling her name and she wouldn’t answer,” Rosie told a reporter.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help with funeral expenses. “She was beautiful inside and out, with a great heart and always ready to be a friend, always had a smile on her face!” writes the GoFundMe organizer, Leslie Aide. Granados is survived by her twin sister, Rosie Granados.

Leila Hernandez would have started school tomorrow.

Hernandez played for the Odessa High School basketball team. The superintendent of the school has promised to provide grief counseling services to students, staff and families. “Please help out our family as we had a tragedy today,” pleas the GoFundMe for both Leila and her brother’s medical and funeral expenses. Friends and family are expressing their grief and condolences via social media, on man commenting, “So tragic. Not long ago she was celebrating her (rite) of passage to becoming a beautiful young woman. Rest easy. Prayers for the family.”

Leila had just celebrated her quinceañera in May.

Makeup by Jeremy / Facebook

Leila’s quinceañera make up artist shared that they were “in total shock and disbelief.” In a Facebook post, they said, “I had just did Leila’s makeup and her family’s back in May for her quinceañera. Unfortunately this beautiful sweet soul was victim to the shootings that took place in Odessa today. Prayers to you Joanna Leyva and may God be there for you and your family through this difficult time. ???? RIP ????????”

A 17-month-old baby has sustained injuries from bullet shrapnel that have left holes in her lip and tongue.

Haylee Wilkerson / GoFundMe

Her front teeth were knocked out. “Anderson is 17 months old, has shrapnel in her right chest, which thank God is superficial,” writes the medical expense GoFundMe organizer. “She has a hole through her bottom lip and tongue and her front teeth were knocked out. She is alive. When others today are not alive.” Nearly $125,000 have been raised for baby Anderson in just 16 hours.

“This is f—ed up,” Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke told reporters. “Profanity is not the f-bomb. What is profane is a 17 month-old baby being shot in the face.”

@amjoyshow / Twitter

“The rhetoric that we’ve used — the thoughts and prayers that you just referred to — it has done nothing to stop the epidemic of gun violence. To protect our kids, our families, our fellow Americans in public places. As a Walmart in El Paso Texas, where 22 were killed. In Sutherland Springs, in a church,” O’Rourke told a reporter. “One or two a day all over this country, 100 killed daily in the United States of America. We’re averaging about 300 mass shooting a year. No other country comes close. So yes, this is f—ed up,” he said. “If we don’t call it out for what it is, if we’re not able to speak clearly. If we’re not able to act decisively, then we will continue to have this kind of bloodshed in America, and I cannot accept that.”

Meanwhile, Texas Representative Matt Schaefer responded to the shooting to defend the “God-given” Second Amendment right.

Representative Matt Schaefer / Facebook

Gun reform activist group Newtown Action is imploring Texas voters to “say NO to Rep. Matt Schaefer at the polls,” after he ‘spewed’ NRA rhetoric in response to the shootings. In a Facebook post, Rep. Schaefer listed all the ways he won’t “do something” about the mass shootings, and instead blamed single mother households and a need for prayer as the solution.

Schaefer minimized U.S. mass shootings as “the evil acts of a handful of people.”

@ajeffery24 / Twitter

In a follow up post, Schaefer claimed to understand both the problem and solution to mass shootings. “Godless, depraved hearts,” he posted. “That IS the root of the problem. Every person needs a heart transformed by faith in God through Jesus. May God be near to those suffering in Odessa and Midland, and everywhere that evil has struck a blow.

Hours later, new gun laws went into effect in Texas to loosen existing restrictions.

@GregAbbott_TX. Twitter. 28 October 2015.

A series of bills were passed in June, which will now allow licensed gun owners to leave weapons in cars parked in school parking lots, allow guns in some foster homes, and in places of worship. It also bans landlords from prohibiting firearms from their property, and allows residents to carry handguns while evacuating from a disaster area. Trump maintains that background checks wouldn’t have stopped the shooting.

Quinceañera’s Are Getting A Makeover In The Time Of Coronavirus And One Teen Is Celebrating The Change

Culture

Quinceañera’s Are Getting A Makeover In The Time Of Coronavirus And One Teen Is Celebrating The Change

Jimmy Rodriguez

Coronavirus has put the breaks on pretty much everyone’s plans.

I mean, Coachella was postponed. Even the 2020 Olympics, which were supposed to take place in Tokyo this summer, have been postponed. Major family plans like quinceañeras have largely been put on hold as well – for obvious reasons. A quinceañera is usually a large family affair. They’re usually packed with family and friends, sometimes even the whole neighborhood, a church service, and a photoshoot.

So it makes sense for families to have postponed these very special events, since social distancing is proving to be the only truly effective method at combating the spread of the virus. However, one family got creative and celebrated their daughter’s big day.

This San Antonio teen was able to celebrate her big day with friends and family in a safe and fun way.

Like so many teens, Xóchitl had spent months planning her quince with her mom, Kristie. It’s one of the biggest days in many Latina’s young lives.

“Every little Hispanic girl dreams about her quinceañera and her wedding. Those are your two big days in your life,” Rodriguez, 45, from San Antonio, told NBC News.

“Usually, there is a Mass where the priest blesses you as you get ready for your transition, from being a young girl to becoming a woman, which of course we couldn’t do,” Rodriguez said, emotionally, over the phone.

Xóchitl and her mom had already spent hours shopping for the perfect gown and hours more planning her quinceañera before stay-at-home orders hit her hometown of San Antonio. In fact, her family had already organized both a mass and a fun-filled reception.

Then the Coronavirus hit and the family had to get creative.

Credit: Jimmy Rodriguez

San Antonio, like the rest of the country, had to implement strict stay-at-home orders in order to combat the pandemic. This left the Rodriguez family struggling to figure out how to celebrate their daughter’s big day and continuing with the tradition – despite a global health crisis.

It took some creativity and work, but Rodriguez and her husband, Jimmy, surprised Xóchitl on April 21 with a low-key but unforgettable version of her big day: a drive-by quinceañera. Xochitl was able to share it with her closest family and friends – at a safe distance.

Still, there are aspects of the tradition that families miss.

“It was very different, because our culture is very much about physical affection — you know, the hugging, the kissing, the touching — and it was really hard to see them and not be able to touch them,” Rodriguez said, speaking of the relatives and friends who came to cheer Xóchitl on.

Her quinceañera has gone viral thanks to the family’s creativity and perseverance.

Credit: Jimmy Rodriguez

They managed to keep the idea from Xochitl until the big moment came.

“We had blown up the balloons the night before and had kept them in the garage and then kind of made the mad dash to decorate the yard when it was time for her to go outside,” Kristie said.

Then, the family went outside and greeted her socially-distanced guests in her dress and her tiara. Instead of damas and chambelanes, the family pulled out some of Rodriguez’s old dolls and teddy bears and used them for a makeshift honor court – while friends and family sang “Las Mañanitas” from their cars and from the sidewalk.

She says she was completely thrilled to see all of the people she loved making an effort, despite difficulties, to make her feel special.

“I kind of lost hope of having anyone over or having a normal birthday where I can see my family,” she told NBC Latino. “I feel like my mom and my dad really made it special, trying to get the people that were closest to me.”

What Makes a Mass Shooter? New Study Stresses the Need for Prevention

Things That Matter

What Makes a Mass Shooter? New Study Stresses the Need for Prevention

Sandy Hook PSA

After yet another school shooting in Santa Clarita, California, the conversation about gun violence has reached new and troubling heights. According to data from the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks every mass shooting in the country, 2019 may be the first year since 2016 with an average of more than one shooting a day. As of November 17, there have been 369 mass shootings in the U.S. We all know that there are 365 (well, sometimes 366) calendar days in a year—so when you do the math, you’re quick to realize that 2019 has seen a serious excess of senseless tragedy…and we still have six weeks left.

The issue of gun violence is complicated by misguided political and financial interests, but the data behind mass shootings is undeniably clear—it is data, after all. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as “any incident in which four people are shot, including the shooter.” The FBI defines mass murders as “incidents in which at least four people are killed.” While the FBI does not have a formal definition for mass shootings, the Gun Violence Archive investigates both, asserting that of the above mentioned 369 mass shootings, 28 were mass murders.

In total, there have been 34,365 deaths and 25,929 injuries as a result of gun violence in 2019, whether from mass shootings, homicides, suicides, or accidents. So, who is committing these crimes?

credit: CNN.com

Of course, the answer is varied, complex, and incredibly nuanced. But in light of the recent tragedy in California, our attention is once again drawn to one group within the broad population of U.S. gun users: mass shooters. What leads someone to carry out these large-scale acts of violence? And what do mass shooters have in common with each other?

On November 19, a study funded by the Department of Justice—the largest study of mass shooters ever funded by the U.S. government—was released, and it responds directly to these questions. A dataset that stretches back to 1966 (beginning with the University of Texas shooting of that year, chosen by researchers for the massive media attention it received), the study tracks the pattern of large-scale shootings over the course of 53 years, ultimately concluding that mass shooters share four prominent characteristics: childhood trauma, a personal crisis, sources that validate their aggressive feelings, and access to a firearm.

The study was conducted by the Violence Project, a nonpartisan organization that “aims to reduce violence in society and improve related policy and practice through research and analysis.” With a sharp focus on the life histories of more than 171 mass shooters, the study serves as the largest, most comprehensive database of its kind, and it exposes a lot about the mass shooter archetype.

In addition to revealing that 20% of the 167 incidents have occurred in the past five years, the study reveals that shooters are increasingly motivated by a racial, religious, or misogynist impetus—especially those who committed their crimes in that same time frame.

credit: Los Angeles Times

This pattern is best demonstrated by the following metrics: Of the 75 mass shootings that took place between 1966 and 2000,  9% were motivated by racism, 1% by religious hatred, and 7% by sexism and misogyny. Of the 32 mass shootings that have unfolded since 2015, 18% were motivated by racism, 15% by religious hatred, and 21% by misogyny—a jump in numbers that exceeds 200% across the board.

While acknowledging mass shooters’ tendency to target populations that they are prejudiced against, the research team also drew attention to the fact that nearly all mass shooters seemed to be in a state of personal crisis in the time leading up to the actual shooting. This pattern, according to the researchers, demonstrates opportunities for prevention that are all too often missed.

Similarly, the study found that nearly 70% of shooters exhibited suicidal motivations before (or during) the shooting—a finding that the researchers hope will directly influence public policy. We know a lot more about suicide prevention than we do about this issue, and we know what works — things like limiting access to weapons, directly asking the question, connecting people with outside resources, not talking about it in the news,” Dr. Jillian Peterson, co-founder of the Violence Project, told VICE. “This shows us that there are opportunities for intervention—this doesn’t just happen out of the blue.”

Family history, life circumstances, and mental health aside, mass shootings would not be possible without the use of a gun. Roughly half of the perpetrators in the database purchased their weapons legally, while 13% obtained their weapons by theft. Over the last five years, the study notes an increase in mass shooters’ use of assault rifles, which correlates with the increased deadliness of shootings during that period. 

Beyond a desire for tighter firearm regulation, the Violence Project aims to focus on prevention: addressing the patterns surrounding gun violence in order to end it before it begins. This extensive database is definitely a step in the right direction.