LEON COUNTY, Texas (FOX 44) – The search for an escaped Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmate who stole a TDCJ transport bus and wrecked it continues in Leon County.
Multiple agencies from the local, state, and federal level are involved, and are using tracking dogs to assist in this search. High temperatures are expected to make things difficult for searchers as they work in wide open country. A Leon County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said the search was being concentrated in an area between Leon County Roads 317 and 318.
The Texas Department of Public Safety added 46-year-old Gonzalo Artemio Lopez to the Texas 10 Most Wanted Fugitives List on Friday night. DPS says they received a call at approximately 1:22 p.m. Thursday. The accident occurred between Highway 45 and FM-39 – off of Highway 7 – which led to these roadways being shut down.
DPS also says 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 Leon County Sheriff’s Office says Lopez is wearing a white Texas Department of Criminal Justice jumpsuit. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice tells FOX 44 News that Lopez was being transported from Gatesville to Huntsville for a medical issue.
Two correctional officers were on the bus – Officer Jimmy Renegar and Officer Randy Smith. 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 TDCJ says Lopez is serving a life sentence for capital murder out of Hidalgo County, and attempted capital murder out of Webb County.
Multiple agents are working to find Lopez. A perimeter was set up around Highway 7 on Thursday. Law enforcement is urging for people nearby to stay home and to take safety precautions – especially those within this perimeter.
There is now a $50,000 reward for information leading to Lopez’s capture – 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.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said during a press conference Friday night that they will be searching the Leon County area until Lopez is found. They still have K-9 officers and helicopters assisting in the search.
You can contact TDCJ OIG CRIME STOPPERS at 1-800-832-8477 or 936-437-5171, or your local law enforcement agency at 9-1-1. You can also leave a tip on the website.
Authorities say that if you happen to see Lopez, you are urged to call the Leon County Sheriff’s Office at 903-536-2749. You can also call 9-1-1. The public is urged to not approach him.