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Search for escaped inmate continues, reward money increased to $50,000 for information leading to arrest

Escaped inmate Gonzalo Lopez is considered armed and dangerous and is believed to still be in the Centerville area.
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 2:33 PM CDT|Updated: May. 13, 2022 at 1:17 PM CDT
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CENTERVILLE, Texas (KBTX) - Law enforcement is now offering a $50,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest of 46-year-old Gonzalo Lopez.

Since early Thursday afternoon, a search has been underway for the escaped inmate after he assaulted a Texas Department of Criminal Justice officer on a transport bus and fled into rural Leon County outside of Centerville. A spokesperson for TDCJ says they believe Lopez is still in Leon County.

“We have every reason to believe that [Lopez] is still back here in Leon County somewhere off of Highway 7, but who knows,” said TDCJ spokesperson Robert Hurst. Hurst says there have been no confirmed sightings of Lopez.

Thursday afternoon, a transport bus filled with 16 inmates and two guards was en route to Huntsville from Gatesville. As it approached Centerville, Lopez managed to release his restraints and used an unknown-type object to stab the bus driver, Officer Randy Smith, in his hand and chest. During the struggle, Lopez was briefly able to take control of the officer’s handgun.

“Officer Smith heroically and smartly pulled the bus over to the side of the road,” said Hurst.

Smith and Lopez then fought outside of the bus, at which point Lopez briefly had control of Smith’s weapon.

“The inmate was able to get Officer Smith’s gun off of his waist, in its holster, but was not able to get the gun out of the holster,” said Hurst.

Hurst says during the struggle, the second guard, Officer Jimmie Brinegar, used his shotgun to shoot out the tires in the back of the bus. Lopez got back on the bus and started driving, but only made it about a mile down the road before he lost control. After the bus crashed, Lopez took off running into a nearby field.

Officer Brinegar and Smith fired several shots in Lopez’s direction, but it’s unclear if he was hit. Once the scene was secure, Officer Smith realized he had also been stabbed in the chest. TDCJ confirms Smith does not have any life-threatening injuries.

Other inmates on the bus at the time of the incident remained seated and in their restraints and nobody else was injured.

Lopez is serving a life sentence for capital murder out of Hidalgo County and attempted capital murder out of Webb County. He is considered armed and dangerous. Lopez was on the bus to travel from Gatesville to Huntsville for a medical appointment.

The Leon County Sheriff’s Office says Lopez was wearing TDCJ-issued white clothing at the time of the escape.

“Do not attempt to take this person into custody by yourself. If you see him please contact the nearest law enforcement agency through 911, they will take matters into hand,” said a statement from TDCJ.

Tips can be sent to the TDCJ Office of the Inspector General Crime Stoppers at 1-800-832-8477, 936-437-5171, or your local law enforcement agency at 911. Tips can also be left at the TDCJ website here.

Some detention units in Texas are not receiving visitors at this time due to staffing shortages. Staff at several units have been pulled away to assist with the search. TDCJ suggests visitors call the unit before a planned visit to make sure they’re accepting visitors.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, Leon County Sheriff’s Department, Centerville Police Department, the FBI, and the US Marshal Service are all assisting TDCJ in the search.

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