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False alarms and no sightings: The search for escaped inmate reaches day 7

Published: May. 18, 2022 at 12:31 PM CDT|Updated: May. 18, 2022 at 6:42 PM CDT
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CENTERVILLE, Texas (KBTX) - Escaped inmate Gonzalo Lopez has been on the run for seven days now and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice says there haven’t been any confirmed sightings of him.

Wednesday morning TDCJ released new images of 46-year-old Lopez taken by surveillance cameras the morning of his escape. TDCJ Spokesperson Robert Hurst confirmed that there were no surveillance cameras on the bus Lopez escaped from.

“This is the most recent photographs of him from last Thursday when he was getting on the transport bus,” said Hurst.

Authorities stress that anyone who sees Lopez should not approach him, but call local law enforcement, TDCJ or Crime Stoppers immediately. There’s a $50,000 reward for any information that leads to his arrest.

While doubts grow from residents about Lopez’s whereabouts, TDCJ believes he’s still in Leon County.

“Remain vigilant, remain alert. Keep an eye out for anything that might be suspicious on your property. Please don’t hesitate to contact the local law enforcement agency if you see or hear anything,” said Hurst.

Residents like Diana LeBlanc remain concerned to see the search continue with no signs of the escapee.

“I think he’s sill in the area. I don’t know that the law enforcement would still be here if they didn’t believe he was. They’ve probably got evidence of some sort that he is here. We appreciate their thoroughness,” said LeBlanc.

“I understand that a lot of residents here are concerned and they should be but I want them to know that we are doing everything we can to get this guy apprehended,” said Sheriff Kevin Ellis of Leon County.

Residents like LeBlanc are holding out hope for Lopez’s capture.

“I think they’ll get him. It’s probably going to take a while the woods are awfully thick there’s probably abandoned buildings and stuff that they’re looking through,” she said.

Thursday afternoon, a prison transport bus containing 16 inmates and two guards was en route to Huntsville from Gatesville. As it approached Centerville, Lopez managed to release his restraints and used an unknown-type object to stab the driver, Officer Randy Smith, in his hand and chest. During the struggle, Lopez was briefly able to get ahold of the officer’s handgun.

“The inmate was able to get Officer Smith’s gun off of his waist, in its holster, but was not able to get the gun out of the holster,” said Hurst.

Hurst says during the struggle, the second guard, Officer Jimmie Brinegar, used his shotgun to shoot-out the tires in the back of the bus. Lopez got back on the bus and started driving, but only made it about a mile down the road before he lost control. After the bus crashed, Lopez escaped into a nearby field.

Highway 7 remains closed to through traffic as a days-long search continues for 46-year-old Gonzalo Lopez.

Lopez is serving a life sentence for capital murder in Hidalgo County and attempted capital murder in Webb County.

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