Authorities in southeast Texas are offering a $80,000 reward for any tips that lead to the capture of 38-year-old Francisco Oropesa, who police say shot five people to death in a home early Saturday morning and then fled the scene.
“We’re asking everyone for your help so we can bring this suspect — or this monster, I will call him — to justice,” said FBI Houston special agent in charge James Smith.
Smith said investigators didn’t have any tips about Oropesa’s location and didn’t know whether he was still in the area. “Right now we’re running into dead ends,” he said.
San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said officers were going door to door in search of the suspect, who officials noted has a prominent tattoo of what appears to be a woman on his left forearm. (Authorities originally gave his name as Oropeza, but said the updated spelling better reflected “his identity in law enforcement systems.”)
Capers also said officials were creating large poster-sized signs to inform the local community that Oropesa is wanted by police and that there is a reward for information about where he is.
Five people were killed in the shooting, including an 8-year-old boy. Capers said a vigil was planned Sunday evening for the boy, who has been identified as Daniel Enrique Laso Guzman.
“My heart is with this eight-year old little boy. I don’t care if he was here legally. I don’t care if he was here illegally. He was in my county,” Capers said. “Five people died in my county, and that is where my heart is — in my county protecting my people to the best of our ability.”
The five victims were originally from Honduras
On Saturday, authorities identified the five victims of the shooting as:
- Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25
- Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21
- Julisa Molina Rivera, 31
- Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18
- Daniel Enrique Laso Guzman, 8
Wilson Garcia, who owns the home where the shooting took place, told the ABC affiliate KTRK that he had asked Oropesa to stop firing his gun in his front yard because Garcia’s baby was trying to sleep.
Garcia said that’s when Oropesa came to his house and shot Garcia’s wife, Sonia Argentina Guzman, before entering the home and firing on other people inside. Ten people were in the home at the time of the shooting, Capers said.
“I never thought that he would shoot. Then he went room to room, looking for people,” Garcia told the TV station.
The shooting took place in Cleveland, a town of about 8,000 people located roughly 45 miles northeast of Houston. According to U.S. Census data, Cleveland is 60% white and 30% Hispanic or Latino.
All the victims were originally from Honduras and Oropesa is from Mexico, Capers said on Saturday.
A GoFundMe page that was apparently set up by Wilson Garcia said it was raising money to be able to send the bodies of his wife and his son, 8-year-old Daniel, back to their home country of Honduras.
Ramiro Guzman, Sonia Guzman’s brother, told The New York Times that he hid in a closet with his wife and 6-month-old son as the shooting unfolded. He said he had fled Honduras five years earlier to escape gang violence.
“We came here to escape violence,” Guzman told the newspaper, “and found it in America.”
In a tweet translated from Spanish, the Honduran foreign secretary, Enrique Reina, expressed his condolences to the victims of the shooting and said the country’s consulate was closely monitoring the investigation.
Reina also called for the perpetrator or perpetrators to face the full weight of the law.
Gov. Abbott criticized for calling the victims ‘illegal immigrants’
Over the weekend, critics slammed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for calling the five deceased victims of the shooting “illegal immigrants.” He used the phrase while announcing part of the reward for information about the suspect.
“I’ve announced a $50K reward for info on the criminal who killed 5 illegal immigrants Friday,” Abbott said.
NPR has not independently verified the immigration statuses of the victims. The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately reply to a request from NPR.
“Governor Abbott will take every chance he get to dehumanize migrants. Even if they were murdered in a mass shooting,” Illinois Rep. Chuy García replied.
Abbott also said “[o]ur hearts go out to the families and loved ones of the five victims that were taken in this senseless act of violence” and said he was ensuring that state and local law enforcement agencies had the resources necessary to catch the perpetrator.