After Lopez escape, Texas suspends inmate transports


(NewsNation) — The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has suspended transporting prisoners after inmate Gonzalo Lopez escaped a prison bus, murdered a family of five while on the run and ended up being fatally shot by police.

The agency says the transportation of inmates has come to a halt while they conduct a comprehensive review of transportation procedures. Exceptions include releases or an emergency medical appointment, during which they say heightened security measures will be implemented.

“The agency is conducting an internal Serious Incident Review and also intends to bring in an outside firm to conduct an independent review to identify factors that may have led to the escape of Lopez,” the TDCJ said in a statement.

Prior to his death, Lopez had been on the run since May 12, when Texas authorities say he broke out of his restraints while on a prison bus, stabbed the prison transport driver, took control of the bus and eventually ran away through a field. Though investigators set up a tight perimeter and scoured the Leon County area for Lopez, he evaded authorities for weeks.

The Texas Department of Public Safety identified Lopez as an affiliate of the Mexican mafia and say the convicted killer had ties to the South Texas area.  At the time of his escape, Lopez, 46, had been serving a life sentence for murdering a man with a pickaxe in 2005.

The manhunt took a tragic turn Thursday when Texas officials say Lopez broke into a vacation home in Centerville, Texas, and murdered five members of the Collins family: Mark, 66; Waylon, 18; Carson, 16; Bryson, 11; and Hudson, 11.

Police say Lopez then stole guns and a truck from the home. From that point on, investigators across the Lone Star state knew what vehicle to be on the lookout for and eventually caught up with Lopez in Jourdanton, Texas, about 30 miles south of San Antonio.

After Lopez realized he was being chased, investigators say he lost control of the truck. The TDCJ says officers then killed Lopez during a shootout. The convicted killer was reportedly armed with an AR-15 and a handgun when police shot him.

Some in the Centerville community have questioned whether Texas authorities did enough to keep residents safe and informed about the search for Lopez.

Officials “could have easily let everyone in the area know to be on high alert. No one heard anything. I know that if the Collins family knew, there is absolutely no way that they would have been up there,” community member Robert Tieperman said during an appearance on NewsNation’s “Banfield.”

Even Duane Chapman, also known as Dog the Bounty Hunter, weighed in on the manhunt, saying Texas authorities working the case now have a “black eye” on their reputation after failing to capture Lopez before he murdered the Houston family.

“To keep this all secret … this is what happens. People get murdered,” he said, adding that Texans wanted to help, but were kept in the dark.

“Share the information with us,” he said on “NewsNation Prime.” “Let us know. We’ll let (police) be the hero,” he said. “We just want to be instrumental in the apprehension.”

When asked if law enforcement failed the family of five killed within the Lopez search area, TDCJ Chief of Staff Jason Clark replied: “Anytime that you have someone that escapes custody, that is absolutely something that we have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what happened. At the end of the day, we will conduct a serious incident review to determine exactly how Gonzalo Lopez was able to break free.”

According to the TDCJ, the search for Lopez was the “largest concentrated manhunt” since 2004.

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