A convicted murderer with Mexican cartel ties serving a life sentence escaped custody last month, going on a killing spree as he tried to evade authorities across Texas, before police shot him dead Thursday night after disabling his vehicle.
"The escaped Texas inmate on the run for three weeks was killed in a shootout Thursday after he killed an adult and four children at a home, officials said," NBC News reports Friday morning. "Gonzalo Lopez, 46, had no connection to the family that was found dead in Leon County in east Texas, said Jason Clark, chief of staff for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice."
Lopez had escaped a 'high security' prison transfer bus starting May 12 while it was en route to Huntsville, Texas. He was serving back-to-back life sentences for capital murder stemming from cases in 2006 and 2007.
Lopez was considered such high risk, that he was placed in a special security cage within the prison transport bus. Local Texas media has cited prison authorities to say it's as yet unclear how he managed to get out of his restraints:
As Lopez was being transported, he somehow freed himself from his hand and leg restraints, cut through the expanded metal of the cage, and crawled out the bottom, TDCJ said. He then attacked the driver, who stopped the bus and got into an altercation with Lopez, the department said. They both eventually got off the bus.
Another report noted that "Lopez, who was serving a life sentence, was being transported to a medical appointment in a caged area of the bus designated for high-risk inmates."
The driver, who had been stabbed, survived the ordeal. Lopez is said to have driven the bus a short distance, but fled into the forest on foot after one of the officers had shot the tires before it took off. None of the other more than dozen prisoners on the bus at the time attempted to escape.
While investigating leads inside the search perimeter, law enforcement agencies received a call from an individual who became concerned after not hearing from an elderly relative. Law enforcement officers responded to the residence & discovered the bodies of 2 adults & 3 children pic.twitter.com/fv8omiorZ4
— TDCJ (@TDCJ) June 3, 2022
With the manhunt then in progress near Centerville, it's believed he hid out in the forest, stealing what food and clothing he could from nearby residential areas. A police briefing indicated he had an AR-15 and a pistol in his possession, believed to have been taken from his victims.
Tragically, while on the run Lopez murdered an entire family of five – including at least three children – later found in their home but with the family's 1999 white Chevrolet Silverado pick-up truck missing.
While the prior manhunt had been underway, the US Marshals office in Waco issued an alert saying "Lopez is affiliated with the Mexican Mafia and has ties to the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio. He should be considered armed and extremely dangerous. Do not attempt to apprehend this fugitive."
One question that remains is whether Lopez had received outside help aiding in his escape. This as local anger grows in the Centerville area over how it was possible that such a dangerous killer was able to escape in the first place and go on a murderous rampage across Texas. "I am angry. I am angry at TDCJ for leaving us vulnerable. And they're negligent for allowing this man to escape," one Leon Country resident told local affiliates in reference to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
"I am angry. I am angry at TDCJ for leaving us vulnerable. And they're negligent for allowing this man to escape."
Residents in Leon County, TX are furious with the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice after escapee Gonzalo Lopez killed a family of 5. They're demanding accountability. pic.twitter.com/7KSVZKd8hs
— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) June 3, 2022
According to The Houston Chronicle, "Lopez was sentenced to life in prison in 2006, after he was convicted of capital murder in the 2005 death of José Guadalupe Ramirez." And "According to court records, Lopez confessed to police that he killed the man on an order from a Mexican drug cartel. Lopez was later given another life sentence for attempted capital murder during a 2004 car chase in Webb County."