The search for a man in Texas who is accused of shooting his neighbors after they asked him to stop shooting rounds in his yard went on for a second day on Sunday. Officials say the man could be anywhere by now.
Francisco Oropeza, who was 38, was still on the run more than 18 hours after he shot and killed five people, including an 8-year-old boy. San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said Saturday night that the search area was now up to 20 miles away from where the killing happened.
Investigators searched a rural area with a lot of forests and found clothes and a phone, but Capers said that the dogs lost the smell.
The sheriff said that it is likely that Oropeza is still carrying the AR-15 that he is said to have used in the killings.
“He could be anywhere right now,” said Capers.
The attack took place near the town of Cleveland, which is north of Houston. It happened on a street where some people say their friends often shoot guns to relax.
Capers said that the victims were between 8 and 31 years old, and it was thought that they were all from Honduras. “From the neck up,” he said, “they were all shot.”
The attack was the latest mass killing in the U.S. this year, which has seen a record number of them so far. Some of them have also been done with semiautomatic rifles.
The mass killings have happened in a school in Nashville, a bank in Kentucky, a dance hall in Southern California, and now a single-story house in a rural area of Texas.
Capers said there were 10 people in the house, and some of them had just moved in earlier this week. No one else was hurt, he said. He said that two of the people who died were found in a bedroom, laying on top of two children as if to protect them.
Capers said that three children who were covered in blood and found in the house were taken to a hospital but were found to be fine.
The FBI’s Christina Garza said that agents don’t think that everyone in the house was from the same family. Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25, Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21, Julisa Molina Rivera, 31, Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18, and Daniel Enrique Laso, 8, were named as the people who died.
Capers said the fight started when the suspect’s neighbors walked up to the fence and told him to stop shooting. Capers said the suspect told them it was his property, and one person in the house got a video of him walking up to the front door with the gun.
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The Shooting Happened on a Rural Street
The shooting happened on a rural street full of potholes where one-story homes sit on wide 1-acre lots and are bordered by a thick tree canopy. Behind the victim’s house, there was a horse. In front of Oropeza’s house, there was a dog and some chickens.
Rene Arevalo Sr., who lives a few houses away, said he heard gunshots around midnight but didn’t think much of it.
“It’s a normal thing for people to do around here, especially on Fridays after work,” Arevalo said. “When they get home, they start drinking and shooting in their backyards.”
Capers said that at least one of his detectives had been to Oropeza’s house and talked to him about “shooting his gun in the yard.” At the time, it wasn’t clear if anything was done. At a news conference on Saturday night, the sheriff said it can be illegal to fire a gun on your own land, but he didn’t say if Oropeza had broken the law before.
The tweet below confirms the news:
TEXAS MASS SHOOTING SUSPECT: The search for a Texas man who allegedly shot his neighbors continues, with authorities saying the man could be anywhere by now. https://t.co/3KeKobLTPs
— NEWSMAX (@NEWSMAX) April 30, 2023
Capers said that the new people in the house had moved in earlier in the week from Houston, but he didn’t know if they were going to stay there.
A database kept by The Associated Press, USA Today, and Northeastern University shows that there have been at least 18 killings in the U.S. since January 1 that killed four or more people. There are many reasons for the violence, such as murder-suicides and domestic violence, gang retaliation, school killings, and vendettas at work.
In the past few years, Texas has seen a number of mass shootings, including one at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde last year, a racist attack at a Walmart in El Paso in 2019, and a gunman starting fire at a church in the tiny town of Sutherland Springs in 2017.
Republican leaders in Texas have always turned down calls for stricter gun laws. This year, for example, several families whose children were killed in Uvalde protested against new gun laws.
Arevalo said that Oropeza threatened to kill his dog when it got loose in the area and that Oropeza chased the pit bull in his truck. This happened a few months ago.
“I always tell my wife, ‘Don’t hang out with the neighbors. Don’t talk back to them. You never know what they’ll do,'” Arevalo said. “I tell her that because Texas is a place where you never know who has a gun or how they will act.”
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