LEON COUNTY, Texas (FOX 44) – The Texas Department of Criminal Justice says the search for escapee Gonzalo Artemio Lopez is entering a new, expanded phase.
The TDCJ, the Office of Inspector General (OIG), along with numerous law enforcement agencies, have concluded an exhaustive ground and air search in Leon County.
A contingent of personnel will remain in the county, and will be conducting strategic searches of areas outside of the original secured perimeter. The renewed focus by OIG, Texas Rangers, and U.S. Marshals is to leave no stone unturned as they follow leads and track Lopez’s whereabouts.
“Anyone who has knowledge of Lopez’s location should come forward,” said Inspector General Cris Love. “Those found to be helping or harboring him not only will face arrest and prosecution, but I believe they 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 where ever it leads us until Lopez is back in custody.”
Lopez is a Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmate accused of stealing a transport bus and wrecking it in Leon County, near Centerville, on May 12. This led to nearby roads in this area being shut down.
Two correctional officers were on the bus – Officer Jimmy Renegar and Officer Randy Smith. They say Lopez assaulted and stabbed Officer Smith in the left hand with an unknown object while he was driving the bus. This caused the bus to crash, and Lopez ran off. The officer’s injuries appear to be non-life threatening after evaluation and treatment.
Lopez was last seen headed eastbound on foot. As he was fleeing the scene, officers fired shots from a shotgun – not knowing whether Lopez was hit or not from the rounds of fire.
The Texas Department of Public Safety added Lopez to the Texas 10 Most Wanted Fugitives List on Friday. They also say Lopez is from the Rio Grande Valley, and is affiliated with the Mexican Mafia. He is 6’0″, weighs about 185 pounds, and has tattoos on his back, abdomen and chest. He also has a burn scar on the right side of his neck. Lopez has ties to the Rio Grande Valley area – including Weslaco and Mercedes. He also has ties to San Antonio.
The TDCJ says Lopez is serving a life sentence for capital murder out of Hidalgo County and attempted capital murder out of Webb County. The reward for information leading to his capture has been raised to $50,000 – the Texas Department of Public Safety is offering a $35,000 reward, U.S. Marshals are offering a $10,000 reward, and the TDCJ OIG is offering a $5,000 reward.
Centerville is almost two hours east of Waco. Schools in the area closed, and residents were told to shelter in place while law enforcement searched for Lopez. Centerville ISD students and staff went back to school on May 16.
If you know of Lopez’s whereabouts, you can contact the Leon County Sheriff’s Office at 903-536-2749. You can also contact TDCJ OIG CRIME STOPPERS at 1-800-832-8477 or 936-437-5171, or your local law enforcement agency at 9-1-1.
Lopez is approximately 6’0”, weighs 190 pounds, and was last seen wearing white clothing in a wooded area off of Highway 7 in Leon County. A $50,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the capture of Lopez.
Those with information on the suspect can call TDCJ OIG Crime Stoppers at 1-800-832-8477, or 936-437-5171. You can also leave a tip on the website, or call 9-1-1.