According to the Texas Tribune, in mid-May, a convicted murderer who was being transported via prison bus managed to remove his handcuffs, cut through the metal door that separated him from the armed bus driver, crawl through the opening, take temporary control of the bus, and flee on foot.
At the time of his escape, Lopez was serving two life sentences – one for capital murder and one for attempted capital murder.
Since the escape, the authorities have been swarming the area in Central Texas where the escape took place. However, to date, the escaped convict, Gonzalo Lopez, remains at large.
To avoid situations like this for yourself, you need to do all you can to avoid jail time. As such, if you are facing a criminal charge of any kind, it is time to consult with an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney.
State troopers, prison officers, and local police have come together with horses, dogs, and helicopters equipped with thermal imaging in an effort to apprehend the 46-year-old escapee. The searchers are offering a $50,000 reward in exchange for information leading to the man’s capture. The bulk of this reward comes from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
A Medical Appointment
Lopez was being transported by prison bus from the prison where he was housed to a healthcare facility for a medical appointment. Two experienced correctional officers and sixteen other prisoners were also on the bus.
On the bus, each prisoner was handcuffed and separated from the armed bus driver and the second officer (who was carrying a shotgun) by metal caging. Lopez, who is considered an especially dangerous prisoner, was seated alone in a separate caged area. This arrangement is fairly typical for prison transport.
Lopez was somehow able to free himself of his handcuffs. He then employed a sharp object (which has not yet been identified) to cut through the metal door that separated the prisoners from the guard driving the bus and squeezed himself into the driver’s quarters without being detected.
From here, a struggle ensued. During the struggle, Lopez stabbed the driver with the sharp object in both the hand and chest. After the bus driver managed to stop the bus, the fight spilled outside. Just as the second guard leaped out of the bus’s rear to help his fellow officer, Lopez darted back inside and drove off in the prison bus.
The armed officer took aim and shot out the bus’s back tires, causing Lopez to lose control of the vehicle after about a mile. Lopez veered the bus into a culvert and escaped on foot by running through a cow pasture.
Although both officers were in close pursuit and were firing at the escaped convict, there was no indication that Lopez had been hit. Officials have not seen Lopez since.
How the handcuffed man was able to – and had the time necessary to – remove his handcuffs, cut through the metal door, and make his way into the driver’s quarters remains a mystery. Beyond Lopez’s dramatic escape, however, is his remarkable absence post-escape.
The involved agencies all went into immediate emergency mode and swiftly secured the boundaries of the perimeter, but their efforts have yet to provide results.
Texas’s Most Wanted
Lopez’s escape landed him on Texas’s Most Wanted list, which offered a $7,500 reward that was raised the next day to $35,000 and that quickly shot to $50,000. Five days after Lopez’s escape, credible tips were not forthcoming.
One of the Largest Inmate Searches in State History
According to CNN, Texas authorities believe they are moving closer to apprehending Lopez. A spokesperson for the Department of Texas Criminal Justice has shared the following information about the escape:
Lopez has a life sentence for capital murder involving a pickaxe.
Lopez has a second life sentence for an attempted capital murder that involved shooting at a police officer.
Lopez has a variety of other offenses on his record that date back to 1994.
Lopez has ties to the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas and is known to be affiliated with the Mexican Mafia.
Lopez attempted to grab the service weapon of the officer driving the bus but was ultimately thwarted from doing so.
The search for Lopez is very concentrated and is “one of the largest search efforts for an escaped inmate in Texas Department of Criminal Justice history.”
The FBI, U.S. Marshals, and about 300 local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel are involved in the hunt for Lopez.
Searchers have not found any abandoned prison clothes, so Lopez may still be wearing his.
It is unknown if Lopez had assistance with his escape.
Lopez is considered extremely dangerous, and Cris Love, the Inspector General of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, shares this (as reported by Fox 7 News):
“Anyone who has knowledge of Lopez’s location should come forward. Those found to be helping or harboring him not only will face arrest and prosecution but . . . are putting themselves in danger. Lopez has a complete disregard for human life and will do what it takes to avoid capture. We will take this investigation wherever it leads us until Lopez is back in custody.”
Other Dramatic Prison Escapes
Most escapes involve prisoners on authorized furloughs or work details who simply fail to return. Most of these escapees are apprehended and returned to prison within days.
Other prison escapes, like Lopez’s, are far more dramatic in nature, and there are some doozies out there.
The Texas Seven
In late 2000, a group of seven Texas prisoners who were all facing long prison sentences, including life sentences, broke out of the John B. Connally Unit in Kenedy, Texas.
The break took place during the lunch hour, which was the slowest time in terms of guard patrol. One of the seven called an officer over and another member of the group knocked the guard out.
The seven men were ultimately able to outmaneuver seven civilian maintenance workers and four correctional officers and proceeded to steal their clothing, phones, and credit cards. They also managed to impersonate one of the officers under their control on the phone in order to buy themselves more time.
Freshly dressed in their civvies, the seven escapees blended in with a surveillance camera crew that was on the grounds installing new observation monitors. From here, they subdued yet another guard and escaped the prison grounds in a stolen truck.
After escaping, the seven prisoners were off on a crime spree that boggles the imagination. With a $500,000 reward announced and the FBI in hot pursuit, all seven men were apprehended within three weeks.
Escape from Alcatraz
In 1962, correctional officers at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary who were making their morning rounds were shocked to discover that three inmates, including two brothers, had escaped – despite the fact that the prison is more than a mile off of San Francisco’s rocky coast and was so closely guarded that it was called The Rock.
While there had been about a dozen failed attempts to escape Alcatraz in the last three decades, the three convicts in question were not deterred. Their escape involved all the following elements:
Stealing spoons and saw blades that they used as their tools of escape
Spending months enlarging the ventilation ducts in each of their cells by hand (the ringleader played his accordion nightly to help obscure the sounds)
Covering the ducts with cardboard that resembled the cell walls during the day
Keeping a homemade inflatable raft (measuring 6 feet by 14 feet and made out of an accumulation of raincoats) in the utility tunnel accessible through the ventilation ducts
Crafting papier-mâché copies of their heads to leave peeking out of their cots the night of their escape
The three left behind a fourth partner who failed to show up because the grill of his ventilation duct stuck. The three escapees made their way to the utility tunnel, grabbed their makeshift raft, slid down a pipe from the prison roof, and inflated the raft at the shore.
After an exhaustive search, the FBI concluded in 1979 that the escapees had all died, but others are not so sure.
John Dillinger started as a petty criminal who evolved into a violent criminal for the books. After spending nine years in prison for robbing a store, he started robbing banks, which led to more prison time and a notable escape, but his most infamous jailbreak was yet to come.
The sheriff at the Indiana jail where Dillinger was housed while awaiting trial for the murder of a police officer famously reported that he could handle Dillinger – at what he called his escape-proof facility.
While imprisoned in this Indiana jail, Dillinger dedicated his spare time to whittling a wooden gun that he ultimately used in his escape – by tricking two guards into opening his cell. He then locked the guards in the cell, grabbed two machine guns, and fled in the sheriff’s car.
A national manhunt ensued, and within a few months, Dillinger was gunned down in the course of being apprehended.
Escape at Dannemora
In 2015, two inmates escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility via tunnels they dug themselves using tools they bribed and cajoled out of two correctional officers. The tunnels led to a steam pipe that took them outside the prison walls and landed them in a utility hole in the Village of Dannemora.
The two convicted murderers met in prison in 2010, where they shared a workstation and began plotting their escape. In 2015, they were granted adjacent cells in a specific block of their choice, and from there, they began executing their escape plans.
The unfolding drama involved significant weight loss, dummies in beds, immense corruption, and so many spectacular plot twists that it has inspired a movie, countless podcasts, tv shows, and much more.
If You Are Facing a Criminal Charge
If you are facing a criminal charge in the State of Texas, protecting your legal rights and bringing your strongest defense is paramount. You are well advised to work closely with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Even a relatively minor charge can lead to serious consequences that can be exceptionally difficult to overcome.
Your dedicated criminal defense attorney can help in all the following ways:
Your attorney will help you better understand the charge against you and your best options moving forward.
Your attorney will gather all the evidence in your case, including any evidence the prosecution has against you. This evidence-gathering process can be extensive and may include bringing in expert testimony, eyewitness testimony, and much more.
Your attorney will discuss your case with the prosecution to explore having the charge against you dropped – or to negotiate a beneficial plea bargain (depending upon the circumstances).
Your attorney will help you make the right decisions for you in your unique situation throughout the legal process.
When it comes to criminal charges, the consequences are far too serious not to have professional legal counsel in your corner.
An Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney Is Standing by to Help
If you are facing a criminal charge, the time to take action is now. The consequences of a conviction for even a relatively minor charge can be far more consequential than you may realize, and a conviction on a more serious charge can be life-altering.
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a formidable criminal defense attorney who has an impressive track record of guiding challenging cases like yours toward beneficial resolutions. For more information about how we can also help you, please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 today.