Members of a Tomball, Texas family were the apparent victims of an escaped inmate who authorities believe killed four boys and their grandfather on Thursday at their weekend home in Centerville.
“We are beyond devastated,” wrote the brother-in-law of the grandfather on Facebook. “The victims of the escaped convict near Centerville were my bother-in-law and 4 great nephews, his grand children. The kids aged in range from 11-18. The oldest just graduated high school last week. The loss is unbearable.”
The inmate was killed after a shootout with police south of San Antonio.
Gonzalo Lopez, 46, went missing May 12, staying in the Leon County area until Thursday when he likely ambushed a man and his four grandsons at their weekend getaway near Texas 7 in Centerville. According to sources, Lopez was hiding in the wooded area in a gilly suit he stole from a hunting cabin. Water bottles and food had been missing from a residence and DNA samples were taken from the home by FBI.
Tomball ISD put out a statement Friday morning that four students from the district and their grandfather were killed Thursday.
From there, once police discovered the family around 6 p.m., police across Texas were on the lookout for a missing white Chevy pickup.
Hours later, around 10 p.m., police in Jourdanton, 10 miles south of San Antonio in Atascosa County, spotted the truck and began trailing it, said Jason Clark, chief of staff for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. After a brief pursuit and police deploying spikes to puncture the truck’s tires, Clark said Lopez crashed into a tree. He jumped from the truck with a rifle he stole from a getaway home and pistol and after a briefly turning to flee shot at the police closing in on him.
No officers were shot, he said, though Lopez was able to fire “several rounds.” Officials said the shooting would be investigated by the Texas Rangers, along with the details of Lopez’s escape from a prison bus.
The end of the long manhunt happened swiftly, after days of failing to find him, but at the heavy cost of the grandfather and his grandsons. Officials did not identify them, other than to confirm they are from the Houston area and likely arrived at their weekend home on Thursday. A relative worried because they had not heard from the family.“
Lopez is a killer,” Clark said about an hour before his capture. “He has a disregard for human life, we know that.”Clark said authorities were still assessing the Centerville home, and were unsure if Lopez was in the home when the family arrived, or entered later once they were present.
Lopez had been the subject of an intensive search since his escape from the prison bus. He was being transported from a prison in Gatesville to one in Huntsville for a medical appointment when he escaped in Leon County, close to the family’s cabin, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has said. Because he was considered to be a high-risk prisoner, he was confined to a cage in the bus.
The department has said Lopez somehow freed himself from his hand and leg restraints, cut through the expanded metal of the cage and crawled from the bottom. He then attacked the driver, who stopped the bus and got into an altercation with Lopez, and they both eventually got off the bus.
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 the 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. At some point during the escape, Lopez stabbed the driver, whose wounds weren’t life-threatening, the department said.
Officials do not believe Lopez had any connection to the family. They suspect the weapons Lopez had likely came from the family’s home.He was serving a life sentence from a 2006 conviction for capital murder and aggravated kidnapping in Hidalgo County. He was also given a life sentence following a 2007 conviction for attempted capital murder in Webb County.