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Search area tightens for escaped inmate west of Centerville due to new information, TDCJ says

Authorities asked for people in the area to report if they have seen anything or anyone suspicious.

CENTERVILLE, Texas — You can find the newest information in this story by clicking here on week 2.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

12 p.m. - Texas Department of Criminal Justice Public Information Officer Robert Hurst asked people to take a look at the new photos released by the TDCJ of Lopez on Facebook.

The photos below were taken by a surveillance camera as Lopez boarded the bus to leave Gatesville.

As searchers begin day 7, there are no new confirmed sightings of Lopez in Leon County. Hurst said at this time, there is no evidence to suggest Lopez has escaped through the perimeter.

Credit: TDCJ

10 a.m. - The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Chief of Staff Jason Clark released new photos of Gonzalo Lopez Wednesday. He also gave a rundown of the details behind the case on Facebook, but one of those details is different than in previous interviews with the TDCJ.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is releasing new photos of escapee Gonzalo Lopez. The pictures were taken from...

Posted by Texas Department of Criminal Justice on Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The new photos are from surveillance footage that were taken the morning Lopez boarded the prison bus to leave Gatesville to Huntsville.

According to Clark, Lopez was being taken from Gatesville for a medical appointment and due to his criminal history, he was put in a separate, caged area of the bus that is designated for high-risk inmates. All other details remain the same: Lopez somehow got out of his restraints, cut through the metal and escaped through the bottom of the cage.

Clark said he attacked the driver, the driver pulled over, the fight spilled outside and the second officer got off the bus using the back door. Clark said it was then that Lopez got back on the bus and as he was driving away, the officers fired shots at him and at the bus, shooting out the back tires.

That's when Lopez lost control of the bus and crashed it about a mile away, got off the bus and escaped into the wooded area near Highway 7.

When officers fired their weapons is a different detail than previously given. This new clarification would explain why witnesses we spoke to yesterday said they did not hear shots or see anyone shooting at Lopez as he was running into the wooded area.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

5 p.m. - TDCJ PIO Robert Hurst spoke today at the 5 p.m. press conference that many members of the community are donating food and drinks to the search teams. Local restaurants are also stepping up and helping feed law enforcement officers who are searching for Lopez.

Hurst said there is no evidence to suggest Gonzalo Lopez is dead. He said there is no evidence to suggest he is no longer in Leon County. Hurst said the officers who are searching are well experienced and they know how to handle the situation.

12 p.m. - The updates are now more structured as we enter day 6 of the search for escaped inmate, Gonzalo Lopez. In the first organized briefing of the day, Texas Department of Criminal Justice Public Information Officer Robert Hurst said the search perimeter has been tightened west of Centerville. Hurst said authorities have gotten some information that would suggest Lopez is in the area but could not elaborate more than that.

Hurst also said there was a brief moment of hope after a tip came in early this morning. Someone reported seeing a man run across I-45 and thought it to be suspicious. Authorities investigated and found the man, who ended up being a construction worker.

Despite this, Hurst said he is happy people are watching and staying vigilant in reporting anything authorities can investigate.

Monday, May 16, 2022

3 p.m. - TDCJ PIO Robert Hurst said he believes Gonzalo Lopez is hoping law enforcement give up the search so he can come out of hiding, however, Hurst admitted there have been no new confirmed sightings or leads. He said law enforcement officers continue to work around the clock in finding Lopez.

Hurst said people are using the tip line to call in information, but none of that has led to the arrest of Lopez. The TDCJ is offering $50,000 reward for information that leads to Lopez's arrest.

12 p.m. - Texas Department of Criminal Justice Public Information Officer Robert Hurst said there are no new leads at this time in the search for escaped inmate Gonzalo Lopez.

The search has now entered day 5. Hurst said Lopez has escaped from custody before and was able to hide from authorities for a few days before being caught. "He's crafty," Hurst said. "It's pretty much a waiting game."

While some information has come in through Crime Stoppers, Hurst said those leads have not yet produced any critical information that could lead to where Lopez is hiding out.

The TDCJ is asking people to remain patient while the hundreds of law enforcement continue to canvas the large perimeter.

To see more video, check out our playlist on YouTube:

Sunday, May 15, 2022

UPDATE - The massive manhunt for 46-year-old Gonzalo Lopez continues as the sun sets on day four.

Lopez, who is serving a life sentence for murder and attempted murder, escaped last Thursday from a prison transport bus in Leon County, just outside of Centerville.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers from several law enforcement agencies on the federal, state, local and county level have been working around the clock to try and find Lopez.

In Sunday’s briefing, Texas Department of Criminal Justice Public Information Officer Robert Hurst was back on the scene. Hurst said while there have been some reports of sightings of Lopez, little information has come from those sightings.

Credit: TDCJ

Hurst said several law enforcement teams are on horseback searching the thick wooded areas. There are also K9 patrols on the ground and air support searching from above.

While a large number of law enforcement personnel are in the area, officials say they have tightened the search perimeter where they believe Lopez is hiding out. Hurst said he believes this is the largest manhunt in recent Texas history.

Hurst said the investigation into the escape is ongoing and did not provide any new details.

Hurst reminded people there is a $50,000 reward for information leading to Lopez’s arrest, but wants people to understand Lopez is a dangerous criminal and people should not put themselves in harm’s way. If you see him, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Centerville ISD and Leon ISD reported school will resume on Monday, even if Lopez is not yet caught.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

5:34 p.m. - The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has increased the reward to $50,000 for information that leads to the arrest of Gonzalo Lopez. Lopez escaped from a prison transport van in Leon County Thursday.

“We will not rest until Lopez is caught,” said Executive Director Bryan Collier. “I want to personally thank all of the agencies who are assisting in this massive search and those agencies that are contributing to the reward. Should you have information on his whereabouts, please contact the Crime Stoppers tip line.”

You can contact the TDCJ Crime Stoppers at 1-800-832-8477.

2:30 p.m. - TDCJ Chief of Staff Jason Clark gave new details into the search for Gonzalo Lopez. He said the last known confirmed sighting of Lopez was a few hours after he escaped. Clark said Lopez was seen sitting beneath a tree near a wooded area. There have been other calls of sightings, however, those have not been confirmed.

There are federal, state, local and county law enforcement officers out hunting for Lopez. There are also dog search teams on the ground and helicopters in the air.

Clark said there could be additional charges Lopez would face if caught. He could be charged with aggravated assault against a public servant and escape.

Clark said Lopez most likely planned the escape and had a homemade weapon. They do not believe he has left the area at this time. They are still investigating on if Lopez had any help.

Clark also confirmed Lopez has ties to gangs in Texas and in Mexico. He has a history of violence and should be taken seriously. Clark said Lopez has little regard for any kind of human life.

12:30 p.m. - Authorities from several agencies remain on scene searching for Gonzalo Lopez. A reward for information leading to his arrest has reached $22,500.

TDCJ Chief of Staff Jason Clark tells us people have called in what are called "ghost" sightings of Lopez in and around Highway 7. These sightings are still being investigated and cannot be confirmed as of yet to be true.

10 a.m. - The Leon County Sheriff's Office said Gonzalo Lopez has not yet been captured, but it has no reason to believe he has left the area he was last seen in. Authorities said there is no evidence to support him leaving the area.

ROAD UPDATES: Highway 7 between Robbins and Centerville is shut down at this time and authorities are asking you to avoid the area. They said there are multiple agencies working in and around the area.

Credit: TDCJ

Again, authorities said if you live in the search area, be cautious and keep your doors locked on your homes, buildings and vehicles. If you see anything suspicious, call 911 or the Leon County Sheriff's Office at 903-536-2749.

Friday, May 13, 2022

10 p.m.  - At this time, there are no known confirmed sightings of Gonzalo Lopez, authorities said. They will continue the search into the overnight hours. Authorities were already seen going door to door in the rural community to double check on people.

TDCJ PIO Robert Hurst again stressed that while a $22,500 reward is being offered for information leading to Lopez's arrest, he does not want anyone to confront the inmate. Hurst said Lopez is a known killer and is serving a life sentence for murder out of Hidalgo County. If you see him or know where he is, call 911.

6:45 p.m. - The TDCJ has just raised the reward for information in finding Gonzalo Lopez from $15,000 to $22,500. If you see him, please do NOT try to take him into custody or approach him. He is considered dangerous. Call 911 immediately.

5 p.m. - TDCJ PIO Robert Hurst said there is no new information at this time, just that the search is ongoing. He said there have not been any confirmed sightings of Gonzalo Lopez since he ran across a pasture headed northbound on Highway 7 at 1:20 p.m. Tuesday.

Hurst confirmed Lopez was handcuffed and wearing ankle restraints when he boarded the bus in Gatesville, however, when he attacked the driver of the bus, Officer Randy Smith, he was not in any restraints.

Credit: Texas Department of Criminal Justice

3 p.m. - TDCJ PIO Robert Hurst said Governor Abbott has been notified on the search for Gonzalo Lopez, who escaped from custody more than 24 hours ago.

The FBI and the U.S. Marshals have joined the search.

Hurst also said the investigation on the escape continues to go on. At this point, they believe Lopez was somehow able to cut the bottom of the door that led to the area where the driver of the bus, Corrections Officer Randy Smith, was at. 

1 p.m. - The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Gonzalo Lopez. PIO Robert Hurst said this reward does not mean people should approach Lopez, but call 911 immediately.

Hurst said Lopez is a dangerous man. Do not approach him. Call police immediately if you see anything suspicious.

Highway 7 from Centerville to Marquez is shut down. If you plan on traveling this route, find another way.

11 a.m. - Texas Department of Criminal Justice Public Information Officer Robert Hurst spoke today at a press conference. He said he wanted to clear up some information he had given Thursday night in his last update and gave more details behind what happened on the bus that led to Lopez’s escape.

Hurst said the driver of the bus, Officer Randy Smith, pulled the bus over to the side of the road when Gonzalo Lopez attacked him. The two then got off the bus and were fighting.

Hurst said Smith reported Lopez went for his gun, and was able to grab it, but was not able to get the gun out of the holster. At this time, Officer Jimmie Brinegar, who was originally in the back of the bus armed with a shotgun, 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 due to the flattened tires and crashed it. He then got out of the bus, according to Hurst, and took off across a pasture. Smith and Brinegar both shot at Lopez as he ran away, but it is unclear if they shot him.

Hurst said authorities believe Lopez is still in the area and don't believe he was able to get out of the perimeter.

Smith suffered stab wounds to his hand and chest during the fight with Lopez, Hurst said, but they were not life threatening.

The search continues.

10:30 a.m. - The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has canceled visitation for at least three units, including Region I, Region II and Region VI. You can find a list of people by clicking here.

8 a.m. - The Leon County Sheriff's Office said Lopez remains on the loose. Several law enforcement agencies are involved with the search, including the Leon County Sheriff's Office, Texas DPS, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Centerville Police Department and several other agencies.

Authorities reported they are working in the area north of Highway 7 in the area of County Road 317 and County Road 320.

6:30 a.m. - Leon ISD has canceled classes for Friday, May 13, 2022. School officials said this is due to the ongoing search in the county for Gonzalo Lopez.

12:40 a.m. - The Leon County Sheriff's Office said Gonzalo Lopez is still on the run. There are several agencies working in the overnight hours to try and track him down. Authorities are also using helicopters and search dogs to try to find Lopez.

Most of the search is north of Highway 7, in the area of County Road 317 and County Road 320.

Authorities are asking people in this area to lock your doors and vehicles. If you see anything suspicious, call 911. DO NOT approach anyone.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

10:30 p.m. - Centerville ISD has canceled school for Friday, May 13 due to the ongoing search for the escaped inmate. If you live west of I-45, the Leon County Sheriff's Office asks that you shelter in place and stay inside.

10:05 p.m. - Authorities have released the names of the officers who were on the transport bus at the time of the crash and the escape.

Randy Smith and Jimmie Brinegar are expected to be okay. Lopez is accused of attacking Smith, who was driving the bus at the time. Smith suffered non-life threatening injuries to his hand.

9 p.m. - TDCJ PIO Robert Hurst said Gonzalo Lopez is still on the run at this time. Hurst said Lopez is dangerous and no one should try to take him into custody. If you see him, call police immediately.

Hurst said authorities are asking the public to avoid the area from Centerville to Marquez up to Buffalo for the next 12 to 24 hours. Highway 7 currently is shut down at this time.

If you live in this area, lock your vehicles, lock your doors and report anything suspicious.

Several law enforcement agencies are on scene searching.

7 p.m. - Texas Department of Criminal Justice Public Information Officer Robert Hurst gave more details into what happened leading up to Lopez's escape from the transport bus.

Hurst said Lopez was being taken to a medical appointment in Huntsville, however, did not specify what the medical appointment was for. The bus was going eastbound on Highway 7 when Hurst said Lopez was somehow able to get out of his restraints and stabbed the bus driver in the hand. Another guard was in the back of the bus, armed with a shotgun, however, Lopez then tried to take control of the bus.

Lopez then crashed the bus and that's when he was able to escape.

6 p.m. - Authorities continue to search for 46-year-old Gonzolo Lopez, who escaped from a prison transport bus just outside of Centerville. Lopez is serving a life sentence for murder and attempted murder.

Authorities said Lopez stabbed a guard and took control of the bus before crashing it a short time later on Highway 7. He then escaped into some nearby woods.

The guard is expected to be okay and did not suffer life-threatening injuries.

4:45 p.m. - The TDCJ reported Lopez attacked the guard and stabbed them as he escaped after crashing the bus. The guard suffered non-life threatening injuries and is expected to be okay.

3:30 p.m. - The escaped inmate has been identified as 46-year-old Gonzalo Lopez. Authorities said Lopez was last spotted going westbound on Highway 7 about 1.5 miles from I-45.

Lopez is serving a life sentence for capital murder out of Hidalgo County and attempted capital murder out of Webb County. Authorities said if see him, do not approach and immediately call 911.

3:00 p.m. - Texas Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Jason Clark said they are working to identify the escaped inmate. According to Clark, the inmate overpowered a guard and took control of the bus. After allegedly crashing the bus on Highway 7, just outside of Centerville, the inmate got off the bus and ran into nearby woods.

Clark said there were other inmates on the bus at the time, but no one else got off the bus. At this time, there are no injuries.

2:30 p.m. - Authorities in Leon County are searching for an escaped inmate from the Texas Department of Corrections. The inmate allegedly stole a transport bus Thursday afternoon.

Authorities said the inmate later crashed the bus about two miles west of Centerville just off of Highway 7 in Leon County. There are multiple agencies on the ground searching at this time.

The Leon County Sheriff's Office is asking people to be on the lookout for anything suspicious and to report if a man in TDC whites is seen in the community.

More information to follow. We'll keep you updated.

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