Before he was killed in a shootout with Texas police Thursday evening, escaped inmate Gonzalo Lopez had managed to elude authorities for three weeks, dodging their makes an attempt to seek out him in a rural a part of the state till he occurred upon a household on trip.
Lopez, a 46-year-old who was serving life in jail for convictions of capital homicide and tried capital homicide, crossed paths with the household of 5 earlier in the day. He killed all of them and continued to flee, before being intercepted and fatally shot by police in Atascosa County.
As the lethal encounter concluded Texas’ largest concentrated manhunt in practically 20 years, an investigation is underway into how Lopez escaped, the place he went these first weeks on the run, and what led to the killing of a household that authorities stated had no connection to him.
A baffling escape
On May 12, Lopez and a number of different inmates have been being transported on a bus from a jail in Gatesville to Huntsville, in central Texas. Lopez, who was being pushed to a medical appointment, had been positioned in a separate caged space due to safety considerations, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has stated.
Despite an officer being stationed in the again of the bus, authorities stated Lopez one way or the other freed himself from his shackles, lower via steel and crawled beneath the cage into the driver’s compartment before he stabbed the driver in the hand. The bus swerved off the street, finally stopping. Lopez and the driver ended up exterior the bus and bought right into a bodily battle. For a number of moments, Lopez bought a maintain of the driver’s handgun, however he didn’t hearth the weapon, which has been recovered, authorities stated.
Within minutes, Lopez made his approach again to the bus and began driving away before certainly one of the officers stationed in the again shot the rear tire inflicting the bus to veer off the freeway, officers stated.
The rural farms and ranches about midway between Houston and Dallas proved an ideal hideaway for Lopez as he jumped off the bus and fled on foot “throughout the pasture,” Robert Hurst, a spokesman for the Texas Criminal Justice Department, stated. The different inmates remained restrained on the bus.
His escape led regulation enforcement to lock down the close by Centerville Independent School District. The faculty district canceled lessons the subsequent day and requested college students and households to “shelter in place” on account of the “ongoing state of affairs.”
“We don’t know what he used” to chop via the steel space, Hurst stated, every week after Lopez’s escape, including that it was additionally unclear at the moment what Lopez had used to stab the driver’s hand.
A harmful man
Lopez had a historical past of felony exercise stretching again nearly 20 years.
He was convicted in 2006 of kidnapping a person and killing him with a pickaxe in Hidalgo County in 2005, in keeping with court docket paperwork, a criminal offense for which he was sentenced to life in jail.
Lopez, who authorities have stated had a historical past with U.S. and Mexican gangs, was convicted of murdering the man on an order from a Mexican drug cartel after a ransom was not paid, in keeping with court docket data.
In 2007, Lopez was convicted of tried capital homicide in a 2004 incident in Webb County, which borders Mexico. Lopez and one other man evaded a visitors cease by police and started capturing at sheriff’s deputies throughout a chase, in keeping with court docket paperwork. Lopez escaped on foot whereas the different man was apprehended by Border Patrol, data present.
He would later testify that, following his escape in Webb County, he was helped to Rio Grande City and then moved to Mexico by the Mexican Mafia, court docket data present. In that assertion he additionally gave particulars about the homicide in Hidalgo County, in keeping with the data.
A multi-agency manhunt
After his escape on May 12, Lopez stayed on the run for three weeks as authorities ramped up efforts to apprehend him. They upgraded the search to an “expanded part” after he hadn’t been discovered for 9 days.
Several native and federal regulation enforcement businesses, together with the U.S. Marshals, FBI and the Texas Department of Public Safety, finally joined the hunt which spanned a number of counties. More than 300 regulation enforcement officers have been assigned to the case, with authorities providing a $50,000 reward for suggestions that may result in his whereabouts.
“He’s hoping we’re gonna quit. We’re not gonna quit. We’re gonna keep after him till we get him,” Hurst stated throughout the manhunt.
A household on trip
As state regulation enforcement was making ready to enter the fourth week of its search, on Thursday a household of 5 was arising 100 miles north from the Houston space to a trip residence in Leon County, authorities stated.
Officers have been dispatched to the residence after regulation enforcement businesses acquired a name from a person who had grow to be involved after not listening to from an aged relative, stated Jason Clark, chief of workers for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.They found the our bodies of 1 grownup and 4 youngsters inside.
It is unclear why Lopez went to the residence, however authorities stated he had no connection to the household.
While authorities haven’t recognized the victims, the Tomball Independent School District in Tomball, Texas, about 30 miles north of Houston, launched a press release Friday saying that “the lives of 4 Tomball college students and their grandfather was taken from us Thursday by the escaped Texas fugitive close to Centerville.”
The assertion didn’t establish the household by identify.
The trip residence was inside the perimeter the place regulation enforcement had been trying to find Lopez and was checked and cleared “a number of occasions,” Clark stated.
After killing the household, authorities stated, Lopez took off with their truck, a white Chevrolet Silverado, to proceed his escape.
The stolen truck was noticed 250 miles away by police in Jourdanton, 10 miles south of San Antonio, late Thursday evening, Clark stated. Officers pursued the truck for a short time before stopping it utilizing spike strips, Clark stated.
Lopez stepped out of the truck and shot at officers, who returned hearth, killing him, Clark stated. The officers weren’t injured. The escapee was discovered armed with an AR-15 and a pistol, Clark stated, although it was not instantly clear the place the firearms got here from and which was utilized in the shootout.
“This is a tragedy that you just had 5 people who misplaced their lives,” Clark stated Thursday. “I’m grateful that tonight Gonzalo Lopez is unable to hurt anybody else.”