Slain Odessa teenager described as soulful spirit
The Odessa High School community is mourning the loss of Leilah Hernandez, a 15-year-old girl shot and killed during a shooting rampage Saturday.
Leilah was with her family Saturday as her 18-year-old brother, Nathan, picked up a truck at an auto dealership off highway 191 in Odessa. Nathan and Leilah were shot while walking out of the dealership, her grandmother, Nora Leyva, said.
"I guess he was just looking for someone to kill," the grandmother said in regards to the gunman blamed for the attack.
Leyva said Leilah's mother pushed Leilah's 9-year-old brother under a car. Nathan wrapped his arms around Leilah and was shot in the arm.
Another bullet struck Leilah near her collarbone. "Help me, help me," the girl said as she died, Leyva said.
Leilah had just celebrated her quinceañera in May. "It was like a dream for her," the girl's grandmother said.
Those who knew Leilah said she was full of smiles and cannot believe her life was cut short in such a horrific way. Although in disbelief, the girl's high school basketball teammates remembered their friend as a soulful spirit who would brighten up their day.
"You always saw her smiling. There was never a day you didn't see her smiling. Her smile always caught everyone's attention. I still can't believe it. I feel like this is a dream," said Valeria Coy, a teammate of Hernandez.
There has been an outpouring of support for the Hernandez family from Leilah's classmates, all vowing to keep her memory alive. “She was just a sweet loving girl," said Coy, "I hate how she didn’t get to make it. It’s just hard for everybody close to her. I won’t ever see her at school.”
The slain teenager's friends are planning a vigil on campus Tuesday. They encourage everyone to wear green, Leilah's favorite color.
Police on Sunday identified the alleged gunman as Seth Ator, 36. Investigators said state police attempted to stop Ator on Saturday for a traffic violation, when he opened fire. They say he went on more than 10-mile shooting rampage, hijacking a mail carrier truck and firing at random as he drove in the area of Odessa and Midland.
Ator allegedly shot more than 20 people before being killed by officers outside a movie theater. The dead ranged in age from 15 to 57 years old.