CENTERVILLE, Texas — Nerves are on edge in the Centerville area where a Texas prison inmate is still on the loose. Gonzalo Lopez, 46, stabbed a guard, took control of a prison bus and crashed it before escaping in Leon County on Thursday.
A prison spokesman described Lopez, 46, as a dangerous criminal with a violent past. He was sentenced to life for capital murder after he killed a man with a pick ax in 2005. He was also convicted of attempted capital murder for trying to kill a police officer.
"He's somebody that is very dangerous," TDCJ spokesman Robert Hurst said.
That's why the FBI and Texas DPS have joined over 300 law enforcement in this urgent manhunt.
A total of $50,000 is being offered for information leading to Lopez's arrest. The Texas Department of Public Safety is contributing a $35,000 reward, the U.S. Marshalls are offering a $10,000 reward and TDCJ is offering a $5,000 reward.
“We will not rest until Lopez is caught,” said TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier. “Should you have information on his whereabouts, please contact the Crime Stoppers tip line.”
How TDCJ inmate Gonzalo Lopez escaped
Lopez was on board the bus along with 15 other inmates headed for Huntsville for medical appointments when he slipped out of his shackles and stabbed the driver in the hand and chest, authorities said.
The driver, Officer Randy Smith, managed to pull the bus over and he and Lopez struggled outside the vehicle. The inmate tried to grab a gun from the driver's holster, but he failed.
Officer Jimmie Brinegar, who was originally in the back of the bus armed with a shotgun, jumped out and shot out the back tires of the bus. Hurst said Lopez then got back in the bus, drove it about a mile, but lost control and crashed it thanks to the flattened tires.
Smith and Brinegar fired shots at him as he ran across a pasture, but they don't know if he was hit..
Hurst said they're still investigating how Lopez got out of his restraints, and how he managed to open the secured door inside the bus to get to the bus driver.
"He used some type of device, we don't know what, some type of device to cut out the bottom of the door," Hurst said.
He said the other inmates weren't able to get out of their restraints and they stayed on the bus.
'Two officers acted very heroically'
"The officer that fired the shots with his shotgun into the rear wheels of the bus, that was smart thinking," Hurst said. "Had he had not done that, there's no telling where we might have this bus right now with 15 or 16 inmates on it."
He said Officer Smith is recovering from "non-life-threatening" injuries. Officer Brinegar wasn't hurt.
"These two officers acted very heroically for what they dealt with and how they dealt with it," Hurst said.
Residents in the area are being advised to stay in their homes, if possible, until Lopez is captured. Nearby school districts also canceled classes for the day.
Anyone who sees Lopez should call 9-1-1 immediately.
Centerville is about halfway between Houston and Dallas.
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