LEON COUNTY, Texas — Authorities announced Thursday night that escaped convicted murderer Gonzalo Lopez was killed in a shootout with law enforcement officers south of San Antonio, ending a three-week search that started when Lopez escaped from a prison transport bus in East Texas.
News of Lopez's death came hours after a Houston-area family of five was found dead in a weekend home in Centerville. Authorities said Lopez was the "prime suspect" in the killings of the one adult and four children and that he stole a truck to get away.
On Friday, Tomball ISD said the children were students in their district who were visiting their grandfather at his ranch in Centerville.
Gonzalo escape timeline
- May 12 – Investigators say Lopez escaped his shackles, attacked a corrections officer and hijacked a prison bus in Leon County while being transported between prisons
- May 13 – The search turned into a massive manhunt with resources from around the state coming to the Centerville area
- May 18 – New photos were released of Lopez from before the hijacking They showed him cuffed while being led to the prison bus
- May 25 – More new pictures were released by U.S. Marshals, showing Lopez’s tattoos as they continued to ask for help
- June 2 – Authorities say Lopez killed a family of five, stole their truck and made his way to a rural area near San Antonio where he was killed in a shootout
How the search ended
Jason Clark, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said the stolen white stolen truck was spotted near North Star Mall in north San Antonio. That is where they started trailing him.
They followed him to Atascosa County, which is just south of San Antonio. That's where they eventually spiked his tires. Authorities said a short chase ensued and eventually Lopez crashed the truck into a tree and got out with an AR-15 rifle and a handgun he has stolen in Leon County.
TDCJ officials said he fired several shots at the officers and multiple officers returned fire, killing him.
It happened at about 10:30 p.m., according to authorities. No officers were struck.
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.
An exhaustive manhunt took place in the weeks to follow.
The manhunt for Gonzalo Lopez took a turn on Thursday when officials said they discovered a family of five dead in a Leon County home within the search area for Lopez. TDCJ said the family was from the Houston area.
Authorities said the victims arrived at the home on Thursday. They think they were killed Thursday afternoon because they were seen earlier Thursday morning.
Authorities said Lopez is the "prime suspect" in the killings.
TDCJ officials said someone alerted authorities after they weren't able to get a hold of a relative on Thursday. Law enforcement authorities responded to the home, which was described as a weekend home off Highway 7, and found two adults and three children dead.
TDCJ authorities also said they believe Lopez took a 1999 white Chevrolet single-cab truck from the home where the victims were found dead.
This is the update provided by TDCJ officials before the Leon County Sheriff's Department announced he was caught.
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.