AFP, published on Friday, June 3, 2022 at 7:06 p.m.
Texas residents were finally able to breathe on Friday: Gonzalo Lopez, shot dead by police at night, will not be harmed. But just before that brutal inmate, who escaped dramatically on May 12, murdered a family at the end of his cavalcade.
The deaths of these five innocent people – one adult and four minors – are an “absolute tragedy,” said Jason Clark, a head of the prison administration in the great southern state.
“But we breathe a sigh of relief because Lopez will not make any more casualties,” he told an impromptu nightly press conference.
The 46-year-old fugitive had not been found for three weeks, and US Marshals, fugitive search agents, were beginning to doubt, despite the scale of the manhunt, the largest in recent history. of Texas.
Gonzalo Lopez was sentenced in 2006 to life in prison for a barbaric murder committed with a pickaxe and abduction.
– Mafia and gang –
Physically, he would have been perfect in the role of the “bad guy” of a Netflix series: the shaved skull, a square boxer’s face on a wide neck, protruding pectorals, tattooed like his biceps and wide back. In short, a brute profile, made even more dangerous by his known affiliations with the Mexican mafia and his active gangs in prison.
The conditions of his escape illustrate his relentless determination.
Gonzalo Lopez was due to be transferred from his Gatesville prison to another Texan prison in Huntsville that day for a medical consultation. A journey of about 260 kilometers, made in a prison bus well guarded by armed officers.
As the multi-recidivist convict is one of the most closely monitored detainees, he is entitled to special treatment: in the vehicle, where 15 other prisoners are also being transferred, he is placed in a metal cage, his feet and hands chained together.
Authorities did not explain how he managed to embark with a handgun, concealed on him, and then get rid of his obstacles. On the other hand, they reported that Gonzalo Lopez then cut the metal partition of his cage, managing to get to the driver’s cab, who was forced to stop the bus.
At that moment, a fight broke out between the inmate and the driver, outside the vehicle: Lopez stabbed the officer in the hand and chest. Another armed officer, stationed in the back of the bus, in turn descends in an attempt to neutralize the detainee.
But the criminal manages to get back into the cockpit, take the wheel, leaving the two guards on the spot. These open fire, bursting the rear tire of the vehicle, which has become difficult to maneuver. In fact, a mile away, Gonzalo Lopez is the victim of a road accident. He abandons the bus and its inmates and faints in the woods.
– Dogs, horses, helicopters –
From the outset, the pursuit mobilized large means and all available police forces, supported by dogs and helicopters. It took place in a hilly area of plains, woods and rivers, halfway between Houston and Dallas.
In scenes worthy of a John Ford western, dozens of gunmen were seen, cowboy hats screwed to the skull, riding across this rugged terrain. But the days passed, to no avail. The premium for any information that led to the capture of Gonzalo Lopez was revalued to $ 50,000.
Unsurprisingly, the fugitive found himself at the top of the list of the most wanted men in Texas, a state whose incarceration rate far exceeds that of all the world’s democracies.
Finally, after three unsuccessful weeks, law enforcement was contacted by a person worried that his relatives would not answer his phone calls. Police found five bodies dead in their homes. Noticing the absence of the family car, a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, they sounded the alarm.
It was at the wheel of this Chevrolet that Gonzalo Lopez saw his horse end: the pickup was seen in Jourdanton, south of San Antonio, then chased and finally stopped by a harrow deployed on the roadway. Lopez, carrying an assault rifle and a handgun, opened fire on the officers without reaching them. They retaliated, killing him on the spot.
This is “the end of an ordeal,” said Jason Clark, who is tasked with informing Americans about the hunt.