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Law enforcement officials in Texas said during a press conference on Saturday that the 38-year-old Mexican national who is wanted for allegedly killing five of his neighbors has escaped the area that officials believe that they had cornered him in.
San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said initially that officials believed that they had trapped Francisco Oropeza in a wooded area about a mile away from the crime scene.
However, in his most recent update, Capers said that law enforcement recovered Oropeza’s cell phone, which they were likely using to try to track him.
Capers said that the search area for the suspect was up to 20 miles and that he “could be anywhere now.” Local FBI officials said that Oropeza should be considered “armed and dangerous” and that he is a “threat to the community.”
UPDATE: San Jacinto County Sheriff says suspect is no longer “cornered.” Investigators have recovered his rifle they believe he used to kill 5 people and they also tell us they found his cell phone. @FBIHouston now lead for updates on search @KHOU pic.twitter.com/ssl0ywuBdN
— Grace White (@GraceWhiteKHOU) April 29, 2023
Oropeza allegedly murdered five of his neighbors after they asked him to stop shooting his gun because they had a baby that was trying to sleep.
Officers were initially called to the scene to respond to a complaint about “harassment” in Cleveland, Texas, and while en route, they received numerous calls about an active shooter. The suspect had been firing a rifle in his yard before the incident unfolded, officials say.
“One of the victims came out of the house and said, hey, we have a small baby that’s trying to sleep,” said Capers. “And the man said, I’ll shoot out in my front yard, I do what I want to in my own residence.”
“They went back in their house and then we have a video of him walking up their driveway with his AR-15,” Capers said.
He allegedly shot each of the five victims in the head. Some of the victims’ bodies shielded young children who survived and were transported to hospitals.
Officials named the victims as Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25; Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21; Julisa Molina Rivera, 31; Jonathan Casarez, 18; and Daniel Enrique Laso, 8.
“It’s horrific,” Capers said. “No one should ever have to look at this scene, the blood, the trauma that went on in that house.”