Authorities said Gonzalo Lopez was the “prime suspect” in the killings. He was later killed in a shootout with law enforcement in Atascosa County.
LEON COUNTY, Texas — The manhunt for Gonzalo Lopez took another turn on Thursday when Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said they discovered a family of five dead in a Leon County home within the search area for the escaped convicted killer.
Investigators believe Lopez was behind the killings.
The Leon County Sheriff’s Office later announced Lopez had been captured, but shortly after, we learned he was killed in a shootout with law enforcement officers in Atascosa County, which is just south of San Antonio.
The chain of events started Thursday when TDCJ officials said someone alerted authorities that they weren’t able to get a hold of a relative. Law enforcement responded to the home, which was described as a weekend home off Highway 7, and found the five people — one adults and four children — dead. Authorities initially reported two adults and three children were killed, but later corrected that information.
TDCJ authorities also said they believe Lopez took a 1999 white Chevrolet single-cab truck from the home where the victims were found dead.
Authorities said they’re not sure who actually owns the truck but called it a farm truck.
Authorities said the victims are from the Houston area and arrived at the home on Thursday. They think they were killed Thursday afternoon because they were seen earlier that morning.
“We will not rest until Gonzalo Lopez is in custody,” A TDCJ spokesperson said. “He can not run forever. I would urge Lopez to give up.”
Investigators said they don’t believe he was related to the victims.
Here’s the update provided Thursday night:
Lopez is a convicted killer who escaped police custody last month. On May 12, Lopez got away by shedding his shackles and cutting through a metal barrier before stabbing a correctional officer and getting away on foot after the prison transport bus he had taken over crashed.
The search to find the 46-year-old had focused in Centerville, Texas, which is two hours north of Houston.
TDCJ is reviewing their protocols to determine how Lopez was able to get away. They believe he’s been in the woods near Centerville, hiding and breaking into properties to steal food, water and clothes.
Photos of Lopez
After his escape, authorities released photos of Lopez that were taken by surveillance cameras shortly before he boarded the bus.
The U.S. Marshals later released photos showing Lopez’s tattoos.
Video taken from a passing car showed the moments shortly after Lopez escaped. In the distance, you can barely see what appears to be Lopez running through a pasture in his white prison uniform. A source told KHOU 11 News that officers found evidence left behind by Lopez shortly after the bus crashed.
TDCJ said it was the largest concentrated manhunt since 2004 or 2005.
Lopez was being transported from the Alfred Hughes Unit (outside of Gatesville in Central Texas) to a prison medical facility in Huntsville when he was able to get loose and stab the bus driver in the hand and chest. He drove off in the bus but didn’t get far after another guard shot out the bus’ back tires with a shotgun.
Authorities said it’s still unclear if anyone from the inside helped him get away and also said it’s unclear if the bus was being followed.
“There is no indication that there was anything of a suspicious nature from the time that bus left Gatesville until the time of the accident,” a TDCJ spokesman said.
Who is Lopez
Lopez is serving back-to-back life sentences for shooting at a Webb County, Texas sheriff’s deputy in 2004 and killing a man with a pickax in Hidalgo County after holding him ransom on a drug debt.
It’s not the first time Lopez has managed to hide from law enforcement for an extended period of time. In 2004, he was able to run away from a police chase in South Texas and stayed hidden with the help of a cartel associate, he told investigators at the time.