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Suspected Gunman Who Targeted Ector County Drivers Is In Custody, Has Been Charged With Murder

By Mitch Borden

For two days throughout Ector County, a gunman targeted drivers on Permian Basin roads. One victim was waiting for a tow truck on a barren stretch of highway near a Pilot gas station. Another, whose vehicle had broken down Thursday night, was fatally shot as he waited for help.

There have been four different shootings in total, which the Ector County Sheriff's Office believe to be connected. A suspect, whom Sheriff Mike Griffis identified as a white male, is in custody in Midland County. Griffis told Marfa Public Radio the suspect has been charged with murder. The suspect was apprehended on Interstate 20 on Friday.

While law enforcement officials have declined to release the alleged shooter's name or age, there is an Odessa man currently being held in Midland County on two separate warrants totaling almost $600,000 — one for evading arrest and another for murder. Marfa Public Radio has attempted to confirm the suspected shooter's identity, but has yet to receive comment from law enforcement officials.

"I want to ensure the public that these people like this individual will be held accountable," Sheriff Griffis said during Monday's press conference. "We're not going to tolerate this kind of stuff in our home town."

The string of shootings began Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 12:45 a.m. The second shooting happened nearly seven hours later. And the third happened on Tuesday afternoon when Jesus Alvarado, 52, was waiting on the side of the road near Meteor Crate Road and Interstate 20. Alvarado was shot in the abdomen and taken to Medical Center Hospital for treatment. He's since been released.

The fourth shooting happened days later during the early hours of Sept. 26. Juan Rosalez, who had just turned 31 a few months before, was on the side of the road on Highway 80. Law enforcement believe Rosalez was having car troubles when the suspected gunman approached Rosalez's vehicle and shot and killed him.

During a Monday morning press conference, Sheriff Griffis said law enforcement officials believe the suspected gunman acted alone during the Thursday shooting, but haven't confirmed the alleged shooter was the "lone actor" in the previous shootings.

The Ector County Sheriff's Office is the lead agency on the investigation, but multiple law enforcement agencies — including the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Odessa Police Department and the Texas Rangers — are providing assistance.

Sheriff Griffis said more information will be released as the agencies working the investigation are able to find out more information.

“Many more days and weeks to confirm somethings related to this case so that we can make sure we get a good conviction and this guy can go to prison for the rest of his life.”

The recent string of shootings come less than a month after the Aug. 31 mass shooting that tore through the Odessa community, killing seven and injuring more than 20 people.

"I hope and pray we never ever have to go through this again in our hometown again," Griffis said. "It's sickening... I was born and raised here, these are my people."

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.