Community reacts to handling of Lopez manhunt amid Lt. Gov. Patrick’s calls for investigation

“Just the fact that he was here the whole time was just terrifying.”
Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 9:58 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) -It’s been two weeks since a family of five was found murdered in a Leon County home following the escape of a TDCJ inmate Gonzalo Lopez.

Mark Collins and his four grandsons were killed by Lopez, a convicted murderer who eluded capture for 21 days before being killed in a shootout with law enforcement near San Antonio.

Questions surrounding the failed manhunt continue as new details emerged Tuesday about events leading up to the slayings.

In a news release sent to KBTX on Tuesday, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick demanded accountability and answers from state prison officials following the escape

Parick said a cabin near the Collins family cabin was broken into a few days prior to their murder and he wants to know if the community was put on high alert as a result.

“As to the cabin that was broken into days before the murder, fingerprints and DNA samples were taken, but results were not expected back for 48 hours. By the time the results came back with a positive match to the escapee, it was too late for the Collins family,” said Patrick.

In his media release, Patrick said he wants the following questions answered:

  • How did the prisoner, who was handcuffed and locked in a secure cage inside the prison bus, remove his handcuffs, escape the cage and attack the driver?
  • How did the second guard in the back of the bus not see what was happening?
  • Was the prisoner fully searched as protocol required before getting on the bus?
  • How was the escapee able to elude hundreds of law enforcement, bloodhounds and air patrols for several weeks?
  • Was the community put on high alert after a cabin near the Collins family cabin was broken into a few days prior to their murder?

Residents KBTX spoke with Wednesday were not aware of the break-in until the statement from the Lt. Governor was released on Tuesday, leaving them asking many of the same questions.

Leon County Marilyn Shipman visited the growing memorial for the Collins family Wednesday afternoon. She says the situation is tragic all the way around.

“I think had we known a place had been broken into here, I think we may have just been a little more careful and not let our guard down so soon,” said Shipman. “Just the fact that he was here the whole time was just terrifying.”

Milam County resident Lisa Baker visited the memorial Wednesday as well.

“He was right here under everybody’s noses and was overlooked,” Baker said. “He hid well you know but we have four beautiful children and a grandfather that are no longer with us because somehow or another he got away.”

Sam Houston State criminal justice professor Mitchel Roth agrees the community let their guard down too soon, but says residents in the search zone should have been told of the break-in so close to their homes.”

“It’s hard to assign blame in something like this and so easy to do it but you know it’s not fair because it’s a group effort essentially,” said Roth.

Patrick, who attended the funeral of the victims, called the situation preventable.

“We must answer these questions. We have a duty to all Texans to ensure this never happens to any family again,” said Patrick.

KBTX reached out to the Texas Rangers which is investigating the escape along with TDCJ and Leon County authorities. They denied our request for an on-camera interview but released the following statement.

Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate your request for an interview at this time. This is an active and ongoing investigation. Further information cannot be released at this time,” said Lieutenant Craig Cummings with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

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