Texas Gunman That Killed 5 Still At Large. Here’s What to Know
The FBI is assisting with the search and called Oropeza “armed and dangerous”
A Texas gunman who allegedly shot his neighbors—killing 5 people, including an 8-year-old boy—after they asked him to stop firing his rifle in his yard remains at large after fleeing the scene on Friday.
Video footage of the suspected gunman, 38-year-old suspect Francisco Oropeza, shows him approaching his neighbor’s door in Cleveland, Texas, according to authorities, after which he went inside and shot and killed half of the people inside.
San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said on Saturday that police extended the search to some 20 miles from the scene of the shooting. The FBI is assisting with the search and called Oropeza “armed and dangerous” and a “threat to the community.”
Attempts to track Oropeza through his phone’s location went cold Saturday evening after he left his cellphone, along with articles of clothing, that police later recovered. Dogs that were tracing his scent in the forest near the crime scene later lost it.
Police also found the AR-15 rifle they believe was used during the shooting. They remain unsure if Oropeza is still armed. “He could be anywhere right now,” County Sheriff Capers said during a Saturday press conference.
Oropeza has been charged with five counts of murder and has a $5 million bond.
Here’s what to know about the shooting.
On Friday, Oropeza’s neighbors asked him to stop firing shots in his yard because a baby was trying to sleep. Police say the gunman, who was inebriated, responded, “I’ll do what I want to in my front yard.”
The gunman then allegedly approached his neighbor’s house with the rifle and shot all five of the victims in the head within close range, according to authorities. Neighbors in the area contend that it’s common for people to shoot in their yard after work, leading them to think nothing of the gunshots until they saw the father of the children come outside asking for someone to call an ambulance.
Police say that they were already on their way to the house for a harassment complaint at about 11:30 p.m. Friday when they received several 911 calls about an active shooter on-scene. A SWAT team conducted a search and found that the gunman had fled the premises.
Capers indicated during a Saturday press conference that they had gone to Oropeza’s house before and talked to him about shooting his gun in his yard, which can be illegal.
Who are the victims?
The five victims were identified as: Julisa Molina Rivera, 31; Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25; Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21; Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18; and Daniel Enrique Laso, 8. They were all of Honduran descent. Capers said that some of the victims had just arrived in Cleveland, Texas from Houston. Other family members had been living in the neighborhood for two years, according to the Washington Post.
“They were a very happy family. Christian. They were kind,” Vianey Balderas, who lives in the neighborhood where the shooting took place,” told the Post. “It hurts a lot, because I did love the family a lot. I am now afraid to be at home,” she added.
There were five other people in the house at the time of the shooting, but they were not harmed.
“Our condolences to the families of the victims of this terrible crime in San Jacinto, Texas. In which 5 people supposedly of Honduran nationality have died. Our consulate has been instructed to contact the authorities and closely monitor the case,” tweeted Enrique Reina, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Honduras. “We demand that the full weight of the law be applied against the person(s) responsible for this crime.”
This year, gun violence has taken the lives of more than 500 minors, a result of the more than 180 mass shootings that have occurred so far, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.