A fugitive killer suspected of killing a family of five – four teenagers and their grandfather – while on horseback was shot dead by Texas police on Thursday, ending a three-week manhunt after his spectacular escape.
Gonzalo Lopez, who was sentenced in 2006 to life in prison for a barbaric murder with a pickaxe and abduction, escaped from a prison bus on May 12.
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. With a shaved skull, a square boxer face, prominent pectorals, and tattoos like his biceps and broad back, Lopez had known affiliations with the Mexican mafia and his active gangs in prison.
The conditions of his escape illustrate his 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, 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 with his feet and hands chained.
He cut the metal partition out of his cage
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 western, dozens of armed officers, cowboy hats screwed to the skull, rode this rugged terrain on horseback. But the days passed, to no avail. The premium for any information to help capture Gonzalo Lopez has been 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 on Thursday by a person worried that his relatives would not answer his phone calls. Police found five bodies dead in a second home in the area searched from the start. According to the local press, this is a family from the Houston metropolitan area: three brothers and their cousin, ages 11 to 18, and their common grandfather. Noticing the family car’s absence, investigators then sounded the alarm.
It was at the wheel of this car that Gonzalo Lopez saw his horse end: the vehicle was spotted 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, head of the prison administration of the great southern state of the United States.