Hunt for Francisco Oropesa: Sheriff says mass shooting gunman could be anywhere, $80K reward offered
CLEVELAND, Texas - **EDITOR'S NOTE: The edits to the shooting suspect's name have been altered to reflect the FBI's note dated April 30**
The search for a Texas gunman who allegedly shot his neighbors after they asked him to stop firing off rounds in his yard stretched into a second day Sunday. However, authorities admit the search has gotten a little more complicated.
BACKGROUND: 5 killed, including 8-year-old 'execution style' in San Jacinto County, shooter still at large
Francisco Oropesa, 38, fled Friday night's shooting that left five people dead, including an 8-year-old boy. San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said Saturday evening authorities widened the search to as far as 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the scene of the shooting.
Investigators said they found clothes and a phone while combing a rural area that includes dense layers of the forest but tracking dogs lost the scent.
"He could be anywhere now," Sheriff Capers said.
Police also recovered the AR-15-style rifle Oropesa allegedly used in the shootings, but authorities were not sure if he was carrying another weapon.
Sheriff Capers said there were 10 people in the house — some of whom had just moved there earlier in the week — but that no one else was injured. He said two of the victims were found in a bedroom laying over two children in an apparent attempt to shield them.
Francisco Oropesa (Photo courtesy of FBI Houston)
Sheriff Capers also described the victims were between the ages of 8 and 31 years old and that all were believed to be from Honduras. All were shot "execution style…from the neck up," he said. A total of three children found covered in blood in the home were taken to a hospital but later found to be uninjured.
The sheriff said the new arrivals in the home had moved to Houston earlier in the week, but he said he did not know whether they were planning to stay there.
FBI spokesperson Christina Garza said investigators do not believe everyone at the home were members of a single family. The victims were identified as Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25; Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21; Julisa Molina Rivera, 31; Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18; and Daniel Enrique Laso, 8.
"We're asking everyone for your help so we can bring this suspect or this monster I will call him, to justice," says FBI SAC James Smith.
According to authorities, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has offered a $50,000 reward for Oropesa's arrest, including $5,000 from local Crime Stoppers and the FBI offering an additional $25,000 dollars for a total reward of $80,000.
The entire incident reportedly began after walked up to the fence asking Oropesa to stop shooting rounds in his yard because there was a baby in the home trying to sleep. He responded, according to Sheriff Capers, by saying it was his property and he could do what he wanted. Home surveillance video also showed the 38-year-old with the rifle walking up to the front door.
The Sheriff admitted his deputies had been to Oropesa’s home at least once before and spoken with him about "shooting his gun in the yard." It's unclear whether any action was taken at the time. At a news conference Saturday evening, Sheriff Capers said firing a gun on your own property can be illegal, but he did not say whether Oropesa had previously broken the law.
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Nearby residents like Rene Arevalo Sr., who lives a few houses down told the Associated Press he heard the gunshots, but it wasn't uncommon.
"It’s a normal thing people do around here, especially on Fridays after work," Arevalo said. "They get home and start drinking in their backyards and shooting out there."
However, a few months ago, Arevalo said Oropesa threatened to kill his dog after it got loose in the neighborhood and chased the pit bull in his truck.
"I tell my wife all the time, ‘Stay away from the neighbors. Don’t argue with them. You never know how they’re going to react,’" he said. "I tell her that because Texas is a state where you don’t know who has a gun and who is going to react that way."
Friday night's attack was the latest act of gun violence in what has been a record pace of mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year, some of which have also involved semiautomatic rifles.
The mass killings have played out in a variety of places — a Nashville school, a Kentucky bank, a Southern California dance hall, and now a rural Texas neighborhood inside a single-story home.
SUGGESTED: One every 6.53 days: US on record pace for mass killings
Texas has confronted multiple mass shootings in recent years, including last year’s attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde; a racist attack at an El Paso Walmart in 2019; and a gunman opening fire at a church in the tiny town of Sutherland Springs in 2017.
Republican leaders in Texas have continually rejected calls for new firearm restrictions, including this year over the protests of several families whose children were killed in Uvalde.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.