Suspected of killing family dies in police shooting 1:17
(WABNEWS) — A convicted murderer who escaped from a prison bus in Texas last month died Thursday night in a shootout with police officers, just hours after he was named the prime suspect in the slaying of four children and one adult. at a home in Leon County, authorities said.
Gonzalo Lopez fled the house in a truck that was later disabled by a strip of nails in the city of Jourdanton, Jason Clark of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said at a news conference Thursday night.RELATED
Lopez crashed the vehicle and then engaged in a shootout with officers, he said. “He fired several rounds at the officers and was armed with an AR-15 and a handgun,” Clark said, adding that they believe the firearms were likely stolen from the Centerville home where the family was killed. No agent was injured.
The victims were identified as four Tomball Independent School District students and their grandfather, according to a letter sent to the district community by Martha Salazar-Zamora, the superintendent.
“The loss of one student, for whatever reason, is heartbreaking, but losing four in such a tragic way is unbearable,” the letter said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of these beloved students and their grandfather.”
The district has arranged for grief counseling for any student who may need it, the letter added.
The victims were identified as Mark Collins, 66, along with four of his seven grandchildren: brothers Waylon, 18, Carson, 16, and Hudson, 11, and their cousin, Bryson Collins, 11, according to a family statement provided to WABNEWS by grandfather’s brother-in-law, David Scarbrough.
The family was “very close and of deep faith,” family pastor Steve Bezner said during a news conference Friday. Services for the family have not been announced.
López was serving 2 life sentences
López had been convicted of murder, attempted murder and kidnapping, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. He was serving two life sentences for those convictions, according to the department.
His escape near Centerville, about 120 miles north of Houston, on May 12 sparked one of the largest search efforts for an escaped inmate in Texas history, according to authorities.
López was on the list of State’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives and authorities offered up to $50,000 for information that would help capture him.
“He has life in prison for capital murder, where he killed a man with a pickaxe and also received an attempted capital murder conviction for firing a gun at a police officer,” said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Robert Hurst, during a news conference at the time, warning that López is “very dangerous.”
Lopez was affiliated with the gang known as the Mexican Mafia and had ties to the Rio Grande Valley area, including Weslaco and Mercedes, and San Antonio, the state department of public safety said.
The family was visiting his weekend residence
Earlier Thursday, authorities said a family had been found dead in their rural home and that Lopez was the suspect.
“Lopez is obviously a murderer. He doesn’t care about human life,” Clark said.
Clark said the family was using the Leon County home as a “weekend residence.” Investigators believe the family had no connection to Lopez, who allegedly broke into the home and stole a vehicle that Clark described as a “farm truck.”
The home was within the perimeter police were searching after Lopez’s escape, which occurred while he was being transported from a facility in Gatesville to another unit in Huntsville for a medical appointment.
Huntsville is about 110 miles north of Houston.
He was being herded into a separate, caged area of the prison bus, but was able to escape his restraints, cut through metal and climb out of the bottom of the cage, authorities previously said.
Lopez attacked the driver and forced the bus to stop, authorities said. The two got out of the vehicle and when a second officer began to approach, Lopez returned to the bus and attempted to drive it, but officers shot at the tires and were able to stop the vehicle, authorities said.
Lopez got out of the bus and ran into the woods off Highway 7 in Leon County, according to authorities.
WABNEWS’s Raja Razek and Chuck Johnston contributed to this report.