Texas shooting: Police admit suspect Francisco Oropeza ‘could be anywhere’ despite reports he was cornered
A manhunt for the Texas gunman accused of killing five neighbours continues despite earlier reports that law enforcement had cornered him.
The San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI have said 38-year-old Francisco Oropeza “could be anywhere” more than 24 hours after he allegedly opened fire on his next-door neighbours when they complained about him firing rounds in his yard.
The victims were identified on Sunday as Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25, her eight-year-old son Daniel Enrique Laso, Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21, Julisa Molina Rivera, 31, and Josué Jonatán Cáceres, 18, according to 12 News. Several children were at the home when the violence unfolded.
Earlier reports by NPR suggested police had located and surrounded the suspect somewhere in the Houston area, but a Saturday night update by the SJCSO stated that Mr Oropeza is still at large. On Sunday night, the FBI said in a statement that Mr Oropeza is considered armed and dangerous and the public is advised not to approach him.
SJCSO Greg Capers said Mr Oropeza “could be anywhere,” adding that investigators have found a cell phone and clothing believed to belong to Mr Oropeza. K-9 units from the Texas Department of Correction “picked up a scent and then … lost that scent in the water,” according to Fox News.
Authorities have continued searching in the vicinity of the crime scene. Mr Capers said that authorities had widened the search to as far as 20 miles (32 kilometres) from the scene of the shooting.
“The FBI has brought in investigative resources, tactical and victim services resources to assist in this investigation. We will be here until we are no longer needed to include when the subject is arrested,” FBI Special Agent James Smith said, per Fox. “We’re still out there trying to find this individual. We consider him armed and dangerous. And we’re not going to stop until we actually arrest him and bring him into custody. But he is out there, and he is a threat to the community.”
Mr Smith added: “So I don’t want anyone to think something different than that. He is a threat to the community, and we need the community’s help to hopefully locate him and soon and take him off the streets tonight.”
“But however, I will say this, we do not ask the community to take the matters into their own hands. Please call 911 if you happen to see this individual out there.”
Mr Oropeza, originally from Mexico, reportedly charged at his neighbours when they asked him to stop shooting rounds in his yard because they had children at home trying to sleep. The suspect responded by telling them that it was his property, according to Capers, and that one person in the house got a video of the suspect walking up to the front door with the rifle.
The multi-agency search for suspect Francisco Oropeza continues this morning. Reminder, if you see him DO NOT approach him. He is armed and dangerous. If you have a tip about his whereabouts call the San Jacinto County Sheriff's Office at 936-653-4367. #ClevelandTXshooting pic.twitter.com/GcQT6jzYmn
— FBI Houston (@FBIHouston) April 30, 2023
“The neighbors walked over and said … ‘Hey man, can you not do that, we’ve got an infant in here trying to sleep’ or whatever,” Mr Capers said, per the Washington Post. “They went back in their house and then we have a video of him walking up their driveway with his AR-15.”
Jefrey Rivera, whose wife was killed in the Friday night shooting, told the Honduran network HCH that when he saw his very intoxicated neighbour approaching with an AR-15 rifle, he threw a machete at him in an attempt to protect other relatives in the home.
“I realised he was coming in our direction while armed with a rifle, so I tried to find something to defend myself with and found a machete.” Mr Rivera told HCH in Spanish. “But by the time I found the machete, shots had already been fired.”
The US is setting a devastating record pace for mass killings in 2023. The violence is sparked by a range of motives: murder-suicides and domestic violence; gang retaliation; school shootings and workplace vendettas.
Anyone with information regarding Mr Oropeza’s whereabouts is asked to call the FBI at 936-653-4367.