An escaped prison inmate in Texas was killed by police in a shootout on Thursday night. Tragically, cops may have caught up with him too late. The man is suspected of killing a family of five in a gruesome home invasion murder just hours earlier.
We’ve been reporting on the case of Gonzalo Lopez, a 46-year-old who escaped custody last month after overpowering prison guards on a transport bus in rural east Texas. Lopez, who authorities say was involved with the Mexican Mafia, had been serving a life sentence for one charge of murder and another of attempted murder. He and other prisoners were being transported to medical appointments when he broke free of his restraints, overpowered a prison bus driver, and ran away near the city of Centerville back on May 12.
In the weeks since, authorities with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice had been frantically searching but thus far had been unable to locate him. Lopez was added to Texas’ 10 Most Wanted Fugitives List, and a $50,000 reward was issued for information leading to his capture. Jason Clark, the chief of staff for the TDCJ, asserted in a press conference that law enforcement would “not rest” until he was returned to custody.
The situation came to a head on Thursday night — and sadly, innocent lives were lost in the outcome.
It all started around 6:00 p.m. local time at a residence in Leon County, Texas — not far at all from where Lopez first escaped. Authorities were called to do a welfare check at a home there after a family member had not heard from an elderly relative since early that morning. Once at the home, which investigators believe was a weekend vacation home for a family from Houston, cops discovered an adult and four children brutally murdered.
The identities of the victims have not been released to the public, but according to a statement by the Tomball Independent School District, the adult in question was the kids’ grandfather. They told parents in a letter on Friday:
“The lives of four Tomball ISD students and their grandfather were taken from us on Thursday by the escaped Texas fugitive near Centerville. The loss of a student, for any reason, is heartbreaking, but to lose four in such a tragic way is excruciating, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of these beloved students and grandfather.”
Immediately, police suspected Lopez may have been involved in the shocking deaths. Authorities determined the assailant may have stolen clothes, firearms, and a 1999 white Chevrolet Silverado from the residence, as well, per ABC News. Leon County cops put out an alert on the car, hoping that deputies in the area would find Lopez driving it.
Hours later, deputies in Atascosa County south of San Antonio — about 300 miles southwest of Leon County — came across Lopez driving the stolen truck in the city of Jourdanton. Per ABC News, cops laid out spike strips that flattened the truck’s tires. Once the Silverado was disabled, Lopez allegedly “pointed a rifle out of the window and fired several shots at the deputies.” Cops returned fire, striking and killing the man.
Upon investigation of his body, police discovered Lopez was armed with an AR-15 and a pistol. In a Thursday night press conference about the incident, Atascosa County Sheriff David Soward stated (below):
“We received information from the U.S. Marshals Service that he may be in the San Antonio area. So then we heightened our alert and, sure enough, we spotted him. This dangerous individual is off the street and no officers were injured.”
Here is more on the tragic situation, from ABC 13 Houston (below):
Thankful that authorities finally found the escaped prisoner, but it’s so, so sad that those innocent people lost their lives in this awful situation.
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