Documents detail efforts and failures during search for Gonzalo Lopez

A TDCJ Serious Incident Report shows confusion on the scene and failures to use canines properly impacted the search.
KBTX News 3 at Ten(Recurring)
Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 6:53 PM CST
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CENTERVILLE, Texas (KBTX) - New documents released detail the search efforts for Gonzalo Lopez, the escaped inmate that killed a family of five in Centerville.

Lopez escaped from a Texas Department of Criminal Justice transport bus in May and remained on the run for weeks. A TDCJ Serious Incident Report shows confusion on the scene and failures to use canines properly impacted the search.

The SIR report states that scent-specific canines utilized inside the perimeter of the search area potentially contaminated the track.

It goes on to state “it is believed the right call was made to bring in the Beto Unit pack canines when the Boyd Unit pack canines lost inmate Lopez’s track. However, when there were negative results, scent canines were deployed, and the creation of inner perimeters led to cross-contamination of odors for the pack canines. It is reasonable to believe the Boyd Unit pack canines lost the original track by making a wrong turn, thus the Beto Unit pack canines were potentially searching the wrong area. Pack canines should be utilized in a wooded area repeatedly with different teams before deploying scent-specific canines.”

An additional concern of cross-contamination includes the use of horses during the canine search. This has led to recommendations of improved training for handlers, increased training for canines and adding GPS trackers.

Interviews from staff on the scene of the search also detail confusion regarding who was in charge.

TDCJ Director, Billy Hirsch, worked as incident commander on the scene, directing staff and coordinating law enforcement.

The report states “CID Director Bobby Lumpkin arrived at the Centerville TDCJ command site and assisted Director Hirsch throughout the incident as a relief. At times, both division directors were together on scene and there was confusion noted by staff as to which one of the two they should report as there were no distinguishing credentials of who was in command at the time.”

This confusion has led to recommendations for better identification of roles during searches.

Findings from the SIR report echo findings from a CGL review. This was conducted by an independent group of corrections facility experts, citing critical missteps by TDCJ staff prior to Lopez leaving the prison and on the transport bus.

Disciplinary action has been taken against more than 20 staff and supervisors who failed to comply with the policy, according to the CGL report. The SIR report states “all staff interviewed accepted responsibility for improper searches, application of restraints, trafficking of inmate property, failure to utilize contraband detection equipment, and failure to make supervisory rounds.”

KBTX will continue investigating these documents.

TDCJ Gonzalo Lopez Report by KBTX on Scribd