One person suspected of using an AR-15 rifle kill five neighbors The execution-style continued to evade an army of law enforcement hunting for him out of Houston over the weekend.
Francisco Oropesa, 38, slipped through a 2-mile dragnet of more than 150 law enforcement officers in Cleveland, Texas, about 45 miles north of Houston on Saturday, officials said Sunday afternoon.
On Sunday, he said, more than 250 officers were continuing the search.
Authorities said Oropesa is suspected of shooting neighbors late Friday after one complained that shots coming from his adjacent property were keeping an infant from sleeping.
Oropesa, who was born in Mexico, has no criminal record to speak of, and his immigration status was not entirely clear Sunday. Authorities said he may have been intoxicated prior to the attack.
Shawn Crawford, a neighbor who said he knew Oropesa and the victims, described the community as “family oriented” and the suspect as a “family man.”
“He’s always working, training his horse,” Crawford said. “I’ve never seen a fight, an argument, her raising her voice, nothing.”
Complaints about bullets in the past, he said, were easily addressed, because Oropesa would move to the other side of his property. San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers acknowledged previous reports of gunshots, which he said may not be illegal based on the size of his property.
The characterization of an even-handed family man would make the suspect’s disappearance all the more unexpected. Law enforcement agents said they were in contact with Oropesa’s wife, but had no leads other than her apparent contact with someone Saturday afternoon.
“We are heading towards a standoff,” James Smith, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Houston-regional office, told a news conference Sunday afternoon. “We have zero leads right now.”
Scent-tracking dogs lost their trail after searchers found the suspect’s cellphone and some of his clothing on Saturday, officials said.
Sheriff Capers said authorities seized the rifle used in the attack, but the suspect may still be armed with a handgun.
Court records for a drunk-driving conviction stemming from a Texas Highway Patrol arrest in 2009 match the suspect’s name and date of birth and suggest he may have been familiar with the area for more than a decade.
On Sunday, Capers vowed to turn his full attention to the search, as did nearby agencies, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“Finding him is my No. 1 priority,” Capers said.
A vigil was underway Sunday afternoon for the youngest victim, 9-year-old Daniel Enrique Lasso. The other people killed in the attack were identified as 25-year-old Sonia Argento Guzmán; Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21; Julissa Molina Rivera, 31; and Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18.
All are believed to be from Honduras.
Authorities initially said the youngest victim in the shooting was 8 years old. However, his father confirmed to NBC News that he was 9 years old.
Capers said Sunday that his “heart goes out to the little boy” who died. “I don’t care if he was here legally. I don’t care if he was here illegally. He was in my county. Five people died in my county, and that’s where my heart is — our ability in my county According to protect our people.”
The reward money for information leading to the suspect was increased by a $25,000 pledge from the FBI, bringing the total to $80,000.
As law enforcement went door-to-door seeking security video or tips, the FBI retracted a photo it had released and distributed several new images, including a tattoo on the suspect’s forearm, to help the public . Identify and report any you find.
“We moved quickly to remove that picture,” he said. “We are now 100% sure that we have correct photo out there.”
Authorities previously said that Oropesa marched to his neighbors’ home with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and targeted his victims with determination.
Capers pushed back at a Saturday news conference when a reporter suggested the victims may have been riddled with bullets, and in a later interview, he elaborated:
“They were all headshots in an execution style,” he said.
He described the gunman’s actions, as they were reportedly known to investigators, just before midnight Friday.
“This guy takes it upon himself to walk out of his residence with a loaded AR-15, walk down the street, walk into that guy’s driveway, walk into that guy’s house, and start shooting.”
The four adult victims were killed at the scene; Officials said the 9-year-old died at a hospital. Capers said three other children may have been saved by two women in the house, who draped their bodies over theirs.
In all, he said, he believed 15 rounds were fired.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com