In connection with the capture of the guy suspected of fatally shooting five people last week in a Texas home, “several arrests” have been made, and “others are pending what’s happening right now,” a sheriff’s deputy said on Wednesday.
Less than five other people have been detained in addition to alleged shooter Francisco Oropesa, according to Chief Deputy Tim Kean of the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office. But I won’t go into specifics.
Authorities are also waiting to hear if the gun used in the horrific shooting has been located. At a press conference outside the jail where Oropesa is currently being held following a days-long manhunt, Kean said, “As of right now, we may have the weapon, but we have to wait for ballistics (testing).”
Oropesa, a 38-year-old Mexican national, was discovered Tuesday evening hidden beneath a mound of clothes in a closet just a few miles from the slaughter site, according to San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers. A law enforcement source told the associated press that law police also tracked Oropesa’s wife to the property, which is affiliated with one of the suspect’s family members.
Oropesa will be jailed on five charges of murder, with bond set at $5 million, according to the sheriff’s office.
The suspect is set to appear in court on Wednesday to be read the charges, according to a source with the San Jacinto County District Attorney’s Office, who added that the charges could be escalated to capital murder, which carries the death penalty in Texas. The San Jacinto County district attorney told the associated press that authorities are still investigating if he had assistance in eluding capture.
“We are so happy,” victim Diana Velázquez Alvarado’s companion, Jefrinson Rivera, told the associated press of the arrest in a neighborhood about a 20-minute drive west of where the shooting occurred in Cleveland, northwest of Houston.
Evelyn Echeverria, 16, was in bed at 6 p.m. when she heard helicopters buzzing above her house, according to the associated press.
“I went out and saw a lot of cops, and maybe 20 minutes later they came out with him,” Echeverria, who recorded the arrest, said. “He emerged handcuffed. He appeared to be collaborating with the officers.”
Witness recordings show officers leading Oropesa through a house’s yard before gathering around him as he sat in a law enforcement car.
Oropesa is suspected of fatally shooting five persons on Friday after being ordered to stop firing his gun outside near his neighbor’s house. Wilson Garcia, whose wife and son were slain, and two others had begged Oropesa to shoot on the other side of his property because the gunfire was awakening Garcia’s infant, he told the associated press. The suspect refused and shortly opened fire on Garcia’s family, he added.
This tragedy is one of more than 180 mass shootings in the United States this year. The dead, all Hondurans, have been identified as Garcia’s wife, Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25, and her son Daniel Enrique Laso-Guzman, 9; Velázquez Alvarado, 21; Julisa Molina Rivera, 31, and José Jonathan Cásarez, 18.
An involved law enforcement source indicated that the government now has 90 days to indict Oropesa. The law enforcement source stated that because he is a Mexican national, the Mexican consulate will be formally informed of his situation on Wednesday.
Oropesa had entered the US illegally at least four times since 2009, according to a source with ICE, and each time she was expelled. He was initially deported by an immigration judge in March 2009, and after that, in September 2009, January 2012, and July 2016, according to the source, he was deported once more.
Uncertainty exists around Oropesa’s length of stay in the US before the attack last week.
How the authorities located the suspect
In the end, the information provided through the FBI’s tip line helped lead detectives to the house where Oropesa was found, according to Jimmy Paul, an assistant special agent in charge with the FBI.
Authorities from the federal, state, and local levels spent a lot of money searching for the fugitive, including more than 200 law enforcement agents working the case and an overall $80,000 reward for information leading to his capture, according to reports.
The actions of officials may have been hampered by a lack of trust in law enforcement. Some Latinos, particularly immigrants, fear that contact with law enforcement will result in questions about their immigration status and deportation, according to the associated press.
After initial leads on Oropesa went cold over the weekend, authorities appealed for information, which came in from Texas, Wyoming, Florida, Maryland, and Oklahoma, according to the sheriff.
“We just want to thank the person who had the courage and bravery to call in the suspect’s location,” Paul explained.
It is unclear whether police enforcement followed Oropesa’s wife to the house before or after the tip was received by the FBI.
Members of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the US Marshals Service, and the US Customs and Border Patrol’s tactical squad, known as BORTAC, entered the property and took the suspect into custody, according to an FBI Houston spokesperson. The home was found by the sheriff’s office in the small town of Cut and Shoot, while the FBI Houston branch stated that it was in nearby Conroe.
The BORTAC team has been involved in several high-profile US operations, including last year’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where its members fatally shot the assailant, according to police.
How the rampage played out
Garcia, whose wife and son were killed, said more than a dozen family members and friends gathered Friday in the Cleveland house. They were assisting his wife in preparing for a church event, he explained.
However, their evening was disrupted by gunshots fired by Oropesa outside his next-door home, according to the father. Garcia’s infant was waking up and crying as a result of the shots.
Garcia and two others approached Oropesa about 10 to 20 minutes before the suspected gunman started the fire, requesting that he shoot on the opposite side of his property, he said.
Garcia threatened to contact the cops if the suspect refused.
“We walked inside while my wife was speaking with the cops, and we called five times because he was becoming more threatening,” Garcia remembered.
They watched as Oropesa moved off his property and cocked his rifle, according to Garcia. He told his wife to come inside because he was worried.
“‘You go inside, I don’t think he’ll fire at me because I’m a woman,’ my wife said, ‘I’ll stay here at the door.'”
Soon after, the gunman stormed into Garcia’s home, shooting his wife, Argentina Guzman, in the doorway before killing three other adults and Garcia’s son Daniel, according to the bereaved father.
“One of the people who died saw my wife fall to the ground,” Garcia told the associated press. “She told me to throw myself out the window because my children already didn’t have a mother.” So one of us had to stay alive to look after them. She was the person who assisted me in jumping out the window.”
Capers informed local media that the deceased was shot “almost execution-style” at close range above the neck.
The sheriff stated that officers arrived at the scene as quickly as possible. However, his small force covers a large county, he said, and the home is about 15 minutes outside of town.