LEON COUNTY, Texas — Gonzalo Lopez, the inmate from Gatesville who escaped a transport bus in Leon County five days ago remains on the run Monday evening. There is a lot of information going back and forth on the case; a lot of people have theories and opinions as to what may have happened.
So what are the facts and not speculation?
Let's break everything down: What we know and what we don't know about Lopez’s escape.
What we don't know:
- How did Lopez get out of his restraints?
- How was Lopez able to cut a hole through the gate on the bus and get to the driver without being seen?
- Did he plan to do this at this location in Leon County?
The Leon County Sheriff's Office reported at 2:30 that afternoon an inmate had escaped after stealing a transport bus, crashing it two miles outside of Centerville and then running from the area. About an hour later, the Texas Department of Corrections identified the escaped inmate as 46-year-old Gonzalo Lopez. Lopez is serving a life sentence for murder and attempted murder. Authorities warned people not to approach him because he is a dangerous person.
Just before 5 p.m. authorities released information, saying Lopez attacked the driver of the bus by stabbing them in the hand and took control of the bus. Authorities say the driver of the bus, a corrections officer is expected to be okay.
At 7 p.m. that night, Texas Department of Criminal Justice Public Information officer Robert Hurst reported Lopez was being transported to a medical appointment in Huntsville. This is the first time we hear from authorities that Lopez was able to get out of his restraints.
In the 10 p.m. hour of that first day, the identities of the two corrections officers are released. Officer Randy Smith was driving the bus and Officer Jimmie Brinegar was armed in the back of the bus.
Hurst said he wants to clear up some of his statement from the day before. He said Lopez was somehow able to get out of his restraints and cut a hole big enough to crawl through to get to the driver, Officer Randy Smith. Hurst said Smith pulls the bus over and he and Lopez fight, the fight spilling outside the bus.
Brinegar exits out the back of the bus and shoots the back tires of the bus out. Hurst said Lopez got ahold of Smith's gun, but was not able to get it out of the holster. Lopez then jumped back on the bus, drove it about a mile away, crashed it, and then took off across a pasture. Hurst said Brinegar and Smith both shot at Lopez as he ran.
By 10 p.m. on day 2, the reward for Lopez has been raised to over $22,000. There have been no credible sightings, authorities said, in over 24 hours.
Around 12:30 p.m., TDCJ Chief of Staff Jason Clark said there are ghost sightings of Lopez around Highway 7, however, those could not be confirmed. Clark confirmed Lopez has ties to gangs in Texas and in Mexico. Clark said authorities believe Lopez planned his escape and are investigating if he had help. By 5:30 on the third day, the reward is raised to$50,000 for information leading to Lopez's arrest.
There are no new leads in the search for Lopez. According to Hurst, more than 300 law enforcement teams are searching a triangle between Marquez, Buffalo and Centerville.
While people are sending tips to Crime Stoppers, Hurst said they have not gotten any solid leads. Lopez was last seen two hours after his initial escape - the only sighting that has been verified. It's at this point that Hurst said "This is a waiting game." Hurst said authorities have no reason to believe Lopez has left the area and they believe they have him within the perimeter.
We will continue to update this article as information is released.
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