Texas Active Shooter Alert System bill heads to Abbott’s desk

By Bethany Blankley

House Bill 103, filed by state Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, creating a statewide Texas Active Shooter Alert System, is heading to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for signature.

The bill passed the Senate with unanimous support on Wednesday and passed in the House last month.

“HB 103 did not receive a single negative vote at any stage of the legislative process,” Landgraf aid. “Texans have spoken: our state needs the active shooter alert system required by the Leilah Hernandez Act.”

Landgraf introduced HB 103, the Leilah Hernandez Act, after working with constituents and families of victims killed by a lone shooter on Aug. 31, 2019, in the West Texas cities of Midland and Odessa. Leilah Hernandez, after whom the bill is named, was a 15-year-old Odessa High School student and the youngest victim killed. Her mother, Joanna Leyva, gave testimony in support of the bill at the state Capitol, arguing that an active shooter alert system could have saved Leilah’s life.

Seth Aaron Ator, 36, of Lorena, Texas, began randomly shooting people after he was reportedly fired that morning from his job. He killed seven people and injured 25, including three police officers, before he was shot and killed by police outside of a movie theater in Odessa.

There was initial confusion over where he was and how many individuals were involved, news outlets reported at the time. In one police scanner recording, a police officer said, "We're getting multiple calls for different victims in different locations. I've got people talking on four different channels, I'm not clear on anything, you're all talking,” 20 minutes after the first officer was shot, USA Today reported.

“We can never replace the lives we lost over Labor Day weekend in 2019,” Landgraf argues. “But we believe that fewer Texans would have perished if this system had been in place at the time, and we are hopeful implementing the alert system now will save lives in the future.”

The bill requires the Texas Department of Public Safety to develop and implement the Active Shooter Alert System. Alerts are intended to be issued quickly via SMS text and other available communications to the public in proximity to an active shooter situation.

The department is tasked “with recruiting public and commercial television and radio broadcasters, mobile telephone service providers by use of the federal Wireless Emergency Alert system, private commercial entities, state or local government entities, the public, and other appropriate persons to assist in developing and implementing the alert system,” according to the bill language.

The Senate companion bill was filed by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, the first Hispanic woman elected to the Texas Senate, the second highest-ranking senator, and the highest-ranking woman and Hispanic senator.

Once signed by the governor, the bill would take effect Sept. 1.