A convicted murderer serving a life prison sentence in Texas stabbed a transport bus driver and escaped Thursday, setting off a frantic manhunt that was ongoing more than a day later.
The incident happened as officers bussed 46 years old Gonzalo Lopez and other inmates through a rural area between Houston and Dallas about 1.20pm. Lopez somehow slipped out of his shackles, used an unspecified sharp object to stab the driver in the hand and lunged for the wounded officer’s service pistol, Robert Hurst of the Texas department of criminal justice told reporters.
The driver blocked Lopez from taking the gun but couldn’t stop him from jumping out of the bus, Hurst said. A second guard aboard the bus fired both a pistol and a shotgun at Lopez, but it wasn’t clear whether any of the blasts hit the prisoner, who was last seen fleeing across a nearby cow pasture.
Fifteen other prisoners on the bus did not try to make a run for it, Hurst added. Hurst also said the wounded guard’s stabbing is not considered life-threatening.
Lopez remained at large on Friday afternoon, more than a day later, and authorities were publicly offering $15,000 for information leading to his capture.
More than 300 law enforcement officers from local, state and federal agencies were scouring the area around the community of Centerville for signs of Lopez, who investigators suspect could be hiding in any of the creek beds or brush patches in the dry, hot region, according to Hurst. An airplane crew was assisting search efforts.
Lopez was ordered to serve the rest of his life in prison after he shot at a sheriff’s office deputy in 2004 and killed a man with a pickaxe after holding him for ransom over a drug deal gone awry near Texas’ border with Mexico, according to officials. He was most recently being housed at a corrections facility in Gatesville, more than 100 miles from where the search for Lopez was focused.
“I cannot reiterate enough how dangerous this guy is,” Hurst told media gathered near the search perimeter Friday.
Lopez’s escape drew comparisons from some to a 2019 case also in Texas in which a mixed martial arts fighter accused of killing two people fled from an inmate transport van.
Authorities said they eventually captured that escaper, Cedric “Spiderman” Marks, nine hours later as he unsuccessfully tried to hide in a trash can.