Victims in deadly Texas shooting named as survivor recounts confronting gunman with machete

Authorities in Texas have identified the five people killed in a mass shooting on Friday night.

The shooting was reported at around 10.30pm in a rural area just outside the city of Cleveland, Texas, the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. A gunman, identified as 38-year-old Francisco Oropesa, allegedly opened fire on his neighbours with an AR-15 style rifle and killed them “execution style.”

Mr Oropesa, who is originally from Mexico, is considered dangerous and his whereabouts are unknown. The victims have been identified as Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25, Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21, Julisa Molina Rivera, 31, Josué Jonatán Cáceres, 18, and Daniel Enrique Laso, 8, according to 12 News.

Sonia Guzman (Sonia Guzman/Facebook)
Sonia Guzman (Sonia Guzman/Facebook)

They were originally from Honduras.

Velazquez’s husband Jefrey Rivera told the Honduran network HCH that his wife died protecting their children. He said she hid in a closet with some of the children in the home. The two other deceased women were found lying on top of two children covered in blood. Police said on Saturday that they died protecting the two minors, who are both believed to have survived.

Recounting the terrifying moments leading up to the massacre, Mr Rivera said that someone in his household asked Mr Oropesa to stop shooting rounds in his yard because they had several children in the home who were trying to sleep.

Mr Rivera said 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.

Mr Oropesa and Mr Rivera then had a brief confrontation, in which the gunman allegedly said, ‘I’m going to kill you today.’

Mr Rivera then reportedly said: “I’m going to kill you first because you’ve already killed my family.”

Mr Rivera said he managed to escape the violence and called authorities.

Francisco Oropesa, 38 (KHOU11)
Francisco Oropesa, 38 (KHOU11)

Family members in Honduras told HCH on Sunday morning that Guzman was the mother of the eight-year-old killed in the shooting. A cousin of Guzman told the network that she had moved to the US eight years ago, while her son had spent five years living in America.

Guzman, a mother of three, leaves behind a two-year-old daughter and a six-month-old baby. Her husband survived the shooting.

Her family has created a GoFundMe to raise funds so Guzman and her son’s remains can be repatriated.

“I just spoke with her on the phone yesterday and now they’re sending her back to me in a casket,” Guzman’s mother Francia Guzman also told HCH through tears.

More than 24 hours after the tragedy, the suspect has yet to be apprehended. An earlier press release by the SJCSO stated that he was believed to have fled the country but more recent reports suggest he is in the Houston-Cleveland area.

A Saturday report by NPR suggested police had located and surrounded the suspect, but an update by the SJCSO later that night stated that Mr Oropesa is still at large.

Mr Oropesa is described as approximately 5’8” tall, last seen wearing blue jeans with a black shirt and work boots and with short black hair.