Tomball ISD students, grandfather victims of escaped inmate
Lopez had been on the run since May 12 and is believed to have murdered one adult and four minors on Thursday in Centerville.
CENTERVILLE, Texas (KBTX) - The five victims believed to have been killed by escaped inmate Gonzalo Lopez were Tomball ISD students and their grandfather, the school district confirmed Friday morning.
“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,” an email from the district said.
Escaped inmate Gonzalo Lopez is dead after a shootout with law enforcement officers in Atascosa County, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed. Lopez had been on the run since May 12 and is believed to have murdered one adult and four minors on Thursday in Centerville.
TDCJ Chief of Staff Jason Clark said Lopez was spotted in the San Antonio area driving a Chevrolet Silverado that he was suspected of stealing.
A chase ensued followed by a crash. Lopez then got out of the truck with a firearm and shot at law enforcement. Clark said officers returned fire, ultimately killing Lopez. No officers were injured in the shootout.
TDCJ suspects Lopez took a firearm from the residence he broke into.
At a press conference Thursday night, Clark said a Houston family was visiting their weekend home in Centerville. Law enforcement received a call from relatives who were concerned after not hearing from the family. When officers arrived at the residence around 6 p.m., they discovered the bodies of one adult and four minors.
Clark said family has been notified of the deaths, but names and ages have not been released at this time.
A 1999 white Chevrolet Silverado, license plate DPV4520, was missing from the residence, the same one law enforcement spotted Lopez in.
TDCJ says they have evidence that leads them to believe Lopez committed the murders, but they did not go into detail on what that evidence is. At this time, TDCJ says the family did not have any relation to Lopez.
The house the family was found in had been searched and cleared multiple times since Lopez escaped on May 12, Clark said.
“We have cleared that area and cleared that residence multiple times. That is within our search perimeter,” said Clark.
On social media, several Centerville residents said there was a sudden increase in law enforcement activity in a rural area west of Centerville not far from where the escape happened. KBTX has reached out to TDCJ officials for more details but said nothing could be confirmed nor released at this time. A briefing would be provided later this evening, officials said, but an exact time was not given.
Lopez, 46, escaped from a TDCJ prison bus on Highway 7 west of Centerville on May 12 as they were headed to Huntsville for a medical appointment.
“He’s crafty,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Robert Hurst said last month. “He’s done this before down in South Texas in Webb County, he hid out for almost nine days.”
Earlier this week, authorities investigated a possible sighting of Lopez on Highway 21 in Madison County, but they later determined it wasn’t him, although the man who was reported by a concerned citizen ran off into a wooded area and was never located.
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.
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.
At some point the driver was stabbed and wounded in the hand and chest, said Jason Clark, the department’s chief of staff. He said the driver’s wounds weren’t life-threatening.
A second officer at the rear of the bus then exited and approached Lopez, who got back on the bus and started driving down the road, the department said.
The officers fired at Lopez and disabled the bus by shooting a rear tire, the department said. The bus then traveled a short distance before leaving the roadway, where Lopez got out and ran into the woods, according to the department.
Sixteen prisoners were aboard the bus, but no one else escaped, the department said.
A $50,000 reward for Lopez’s capture is still being offered.
Leon County has roughly 16,000 residents and is about 50 miles north of the state’s prison headquarters in Huntsville.
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