Law enforcement went door to door on Sunday looking for clues to a gunman who fled after killing five people in a rural Texas town after his neighbors asked him to stop shooting in his yard.
The suspected shooter, Francisco Oropesa, 38, was deemed armed and dangerous after fleeing the area Friday, likely on foot, San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said late Saturday. He said authorities had widened the search to 32 kilometers from the scene of the shooting.
Investigators found clothes and a phone while scouring a rural area that includes dense layers of forest, but tracker dogs lost the scent, Capers said. Authorities were able to identify Oropesa through an identity card issued by Mexican authorities to citizens residing outside the country, as well as footage from the doorbell camera. He added that the police also interviewed the suspect’s wife.
Police recovered the AR-15 type rifle that Oropesa allegedly used in the shooting, but authorities were unsure whether he was carrying another weapon, the sheriff said. There were other weapons at the suspect’s home, he said.
“He could be anywhere now,” Capers said.
The attack happened near the city of Cleveland, north of Houston, on a street where some residents say neighbors often relax by firing shots.
It was a much calmer scene on Sunday. Police crime scene tape had been removed from the victims’ home, where four bullet holes could be seen in the front door. Some people stopped to lay flowers.
An FBI agent, several soldiers from the Texas Department of Public Safety and other officers could be seen walking around the neighborhood, knocking on doors and trying to talk with neighbors. The agent and officers declined to comment on what they were doing.
As soldiers spoke to residents of a house, a red truck pulling a caravan drove through the neighborhood. A soldier stopped the truck and asked the driver, “Do you mind if I take a look inside the truck?”
The driver agreed and allowed the officer to get inside the vehicle. After inspecting the trailer, the officer let the driver continue on his way.
Veronica Pineda, 34, who lives opposite the suspect’s home, said authorities asked if they could search his property to see if he might be hiding there.
“It’s okay for them to do this,” the mother-of-five said, adding that she remained scared because the shooter had yet to be caught.
“It’s kind of scary. You never know where he might be. I don’t think he’ll be there anymore,” she said.
She said she did not know Oropesa well but occasionally saw him, his wife and son riding horses in the street and believed the family had lived there for five or six years. Pineda said neighbors had called authorities in the past to complain about the gunfire.
The victims of Friday’s shooting ranged in age from 8 to 31 and were all believed to be from Honduras, Capers said. All were shot “from the neck up”, he said. A GoFundMe page has been created to repatriate the bodies of two victims, a mother and her son, to their native country.
Enrique Reina, secretary of foreign affairs and international cooperation of Honduras, said on Twitter that the Honduran consulate in Houston was contacting the families in connection with the repatriation of the remains as well as the American authorities to update them on the investigation. .
The suspect’s last name was originally given as Oropeza by authorities, but the FBI in Houston said in a Tweet on Sunday that it is now referring to him as Oropesa to “better reflect his identity in information systems.” ‘law application”. The FBI said the case “remains a fluid investigation.”
The attack was the latest act of gun violence in what has been a record pace of mass shootings in the United States so far this year, some of which have also involved semi-automatic rifles.
Capers said there were 10 people in the house – some of whom had just moved in earlier in the week – but no one else was injured. He said two of the victims were found in a bedroom lying on top of two children in an apparent attempt to protect them.
A total of three children found covered in blood at home were taken to hospital but were not injured, Capers said.
FBI spokeswoman Christina Garza said investigators do not believe those at the home belong to a single family. The victims were identified as Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25; Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21; Julia Molina Rivera, 31; Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18; and Daniel Enrique Laso, 8.
The confrontation came after neighbors approached a fence and asked the suspect to stop shooting, Capers said. He said the suspect responded by telling them it was his property. Doorbell video captured him walking to the front door with a rifle.
The shooting took place on a pothole-riddled rural street where two-story homes sit on one-acre lots and are surrounded by a thick canopy of trees. A horse could be seen behind the victims’ house, while in the front yard of Oropesa’s house a dog and chickens roamed.
Rene Arevalo Sr., who lives a few houses away, said he heard gunshots around midnight but thought nothing of it.
“It’s a normal thing people do here, especially on Fridays after work,” Arevalo said. “They come home and start drinking in their garden and shooting there.”
Read all the latest news here
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)