No trace of the killer who escaped in Texas

Texas— It has been four days since a convicted murderer being transported on a Texas prison bus was able to remove his handcuffs, cut a metal gate off an armed driver, temporarily take control of the vehicle and flee on foot, according to police officials. the prison

Since then, corrections officers, state troopers and local police have swarmed into central Texas’ Leon County, using horses, dogs and helicopters equipped with thermal imaging to search for 46-year-old Gonzalo Lopez, a prison spokesman said. . But so far, officials have come up empty-handed.

The unusual escape and prolonged manhunt have prompted state and federal officials to offer a $50,000 reward for information leading to Lopez’s capture, with most of it coming from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Lopez is serving two life sentences for capital murder and attempted capital murder in Hidalgo and Webb counties.

“We will not rest until Lopez is caught,” Bryan Collier, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said in a statement Saturday.

López was sentenced to life in prison in 2006, after being convicted of capital murder in the death of José Guadalupe Ramírez in 2005. According to court records, López confessed to police that he killed the man on the orders of a Mexican drug cartel. . Lopez later received another life sentence for attempted capital murder during a 2004 car chase in Webb County. A court ruling said Lopez was the passenger in a car when the driver fled during an attempted traffic stop. Law enforcement officials said they were shot from the driver’s side of the vehicle.

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On Thursday afternoon, López was aboard a bus with 15 other inmates and two veteran corrections officers. He was on his way from the Hughes Unit in Gatesville, where he is housed, to Huntsville for a medical appointment, according to TDCJ spokesman Robert Hurst.

On the bus, the prisoners were handcuffed and separated by metal cages from the armed driver and a second officer in the back of the bus who was carrying a shotgun. Hurst said such a configuration is typical for prisoner transports.

Somehow, however, López managed to free himself from his handcuffs. And undetected by any of the guards, the prisoner used a sharp object to break through the metal gate that separated the prisoners from the driver and crawled into the driver’s section, Hurst said. A fight ensued and Lopez stabbed the driver in the hand and chest with the unknown object.

The driver was able to stop the bus and the fight between the two men quickly moved outside, Hurst said. Lopez got on the bus, apparently at the time the officer in the back jumped out the back after noticing there was a fight. With no officers on board, López left.

However, the officer armed with a shotgun quickly shot out the rear tires, so after about a mile, Lopez lost control and the bus veered into a culvert on the side of the road. Lopez fled on foot through a cow pasture, Hurst said. The two officers caught up with him and fired at him with their handguns and shotgun, though Hurst said it didn’t look like Lopez was a hit.

That was the last time an official saw López.

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Hurst could not explain how Lopez managed to free himself from the handcuffs or had time to cut through the metal on the bus and get into the driver’s section without being detected.

“We are still investigating,” he said.

But beyond Lopez’s notable escape is his continued absence, despite a quickly launched search and the numerous law enforcement agencies on the hunt.

“We immediately went into emergency mode with an escaped inmate on the ground,” Hurst said, noting that TDCJ staff quickly set up a perimeter with the help of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and a local police officer.

On Friday, DPS placed Lopez on the state’s most wanted list and offered a $7,500 reward. The next day, the state police agency raised the amount to $35,000 with the US Marshals Service and the Texas Prisons Investigative Branch offering another $10,000 and $5,000, respectively, the TDCJ reported.

On Monday, Hurst said the agencies have yet to receive any credible advice. The agency has asked anyone with information about Lopez to call 1-800-832-8477 or 936-437-5171.