Over the weekend, an army of police officers continued to look for a man outside of Houston who is thought to have used an AR-15 gun to kill five neighbors by shooting them in the head.
Authorities said Sunday afternoon that Francisco Oropesa, 38, seemed to have gotten away from a dragnet of more than 150 police officers that stretched for 2 miles in Cleveland, Texas, about 45 miles north of Houston.
They said that the search was still going on on Sunday with more than 250 police.
Officials say that Oropesa is thought to have shot at his neighbors late Friday night after one of them said that shots coming from his next-door property were stopping a baby from sleeping.
The police said that Oropesa might have been drunk before the attack.
Shawn Crawford, a neighbor who says he knows both Oropesa and the people who were killed, said that the neighborhood is “family-oriented” and that the suspect is a “family guy.”
Crawford said, “He’s always at work, training his horse.” “I’ve never seen him fight, argue, yell, or do anything else.”
He said that when people complained about gunfire in the past, Oropesa would just move to a different part of his land. Sheriff Greg Capers of San Jacinto County said he knew there had been gunfire in the past, but it might not have been illegal based on how big the property was.
The fact that the suspect is described as a fair-minded family man seems to make his absence even stranger. Agents from the police said they had talked to Oropesa’s wife but had no other information besides the fact that he seemed to talk to someone Saturday afternoon.
At a news conference on Sunday afternoon, the special agent in charge of the FBI office in the Houston area, James Smith, said, “We’re running into dead ends.” “At the moment, we have no leads.”
Here are the newest images of Francisco Oropesa and a prominent tattoo on his left forearm.
Going forward, the subject's last name will be spelled "Oropesa" to better reflect his identity in law enforcement systems. This remains a fluid investigation. #ClevelandTXShooting pic.twitter.com/ZWUu0FqoMF
— FBI Houston (@FBIHouston) April 30, 2023
Authorities said that hunters found the suspect’s phone and some of his clothes on Saturday, but scent-tracking dogs lost his trail.
Capers, the sheriff, said that the gun used in the attack had been taken away by the police, but that the suspect might still have a pistol.
Court records for a drunken driving conviction in 2012 from a Texas Highway Patrol arrest in 2009 match the suspect’s name and birthdate and show he may have lived in the area for more than a decade.
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Capers Promised to Give the Search His Full Attention as Other Agencies
On Sunday, Capers promised to give the search his full attention as other agencies, like the Texas Public Safety Department, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, joined the hunt.
“Finding him is my top priority,” Capers said.
On Sunday afternoon, a vigil was held for 9-year-old Daniel Enrique Laso, who was the youngest person killed. Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25, Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21, Julisa Molina Rivera, 31, and Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18, were the other people who died in the attack.
Everyone was thought to be from Honduras.
At first, authorities said that the youngest person killed in the killing was 8. But his father told NBC News that he was only 9.
Sunday, Capers said that his “heart is with” the boy who died. “I don’t care if he was allowed to be here. I don’t care if he shouldn’t have been here. My county was where he was. Five people died in my county, and that’s where my heart is: in my county, making sure our people are safe as much as we can.
The FBI added $25,000 to the reward money for information that led to the suspect being caught, bringing the total to $80,000.
As police went door to door looking for security footage or tips that could lead them to the suspect, the FBI took back a photo that had been released and sent out several new photos, including one of a tattoo on the suspect’s forearm, to help people recognize him and call the police if they saw him.
“We quickly took that picture down,” he said. “Now we know for sure that the right picture is out there.”
Authorities had said before that Oropesa went to his neighbor’s house with an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon and aimed with determination at his victims.
Capers pushed back when a reporter said that victims may have been sprayed with gunshots at a news conference on Saturday. In an interview afterward, he went into more detail:
“All of them were killed by being shot in the head,” he said.
He talked about the gunman’s movements as investigators were said to know them on Friday before midnight.
“This man decides to walk out of his house with a loaded AR-15, walk into the street, walk down the street, walk into that man’s driveway, walk up into that man’s house, and start shooting.”
The four adults died at the scene, and the 9-year-old died at a hospital, according to officials. Capers said that two women in the home who put their bodies over three other children may have saved their lives.
He said that he thought 15 shots were fired in all.
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