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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Man accused of killing 5 in Texas is arrested

Law enforcement officials said Francisco Oropesa was caught hiding in a closet just a few miles from the site of the shooting.

By J. David Goodman

After a search that stretched to the Mexican border, heavily armed Texas and federal officers earlier this week arrested the man who they believe fatally shot five people in a neighborhood dispute outside the town of Cleveland, Texas, officials said.

The suspect, Francisco Oropesa, was “caught hiding in a closet underneath some laundry” in a home a few miles from the site of the Friday shooting in San Jacinto County, said Greg Capers, the county sheriff.

Oropesa, 38, an immigrant from Mexico who had been deported four times, was charged with five counts of murder and was being held on $5 million bond, Capers said. Oropesa was being transferred back to a San Jacinto County jail on Tuesday night.

Capers declined to say who owned the home near the town of Cut and Shoot, Texas, where Oropesa was found but said that he had not resisted arrest. Property records indicated that the home belonged to one of his relatives.

“Somebody got a tip,” Capers said at a Tuesday night news conference. Then tactical officers from several agencies “meandered over there and found that tip to be true.”

Officials said that those connected to the home, in Montgomery County, were being questioned but that no one else had been taken into custody as of Tuesday evening.

For four days, state and federal law enforcement officials had been searching for Oropesa in the thick woods around his home outside Cleveland, in neighboring counties and as far south as the border with Mexico, where, officials believed, he might be trying to flee.

But in the end, officers found Oropesa, whose face stared out from large Spanish-language posters around San Jacinto County — about an hour’s drive north of downtown Houston.

Jimmy Paul, an assistant special agent in charge with the FBI, said that the tip that had led to the arrest came in at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday; Oropesa was arrested shortly after, at 6:30 p.m. Paul did not elaborate on the nature of the tip or who had left it. Officials had offered rewards totaling $80,000 for information leading to Oropesa’s arrest.

Officials said he had been taken into custody without incident by a team that included officers from the U.S. Marshals Service, the Texas Department of Public Safety and a tactical unit from the Border Patrol.

The killings occurred late Friday. Officials said Oropesa had been firing a gun that night in his front yard outside Cleveland, on a plot of land smaller than an acre in a row of similarly sized properties along a rutted dirt road. His immediate neighbors, a family from Honduras, complained about the noise, to both Oropesa and police via 911, shortly after 11:30 p.m.

Officers did not immediately go to the area, where residents have long complained of dangerously wanton gunfire. Soon after the complaints, officials said, Oropesa could be seen on a doorbell video entering his neighbor Wilson Garcia’s home, armed with an AR-15-style rifle.

Five people were fatally shot inside the home, according to the FBI: Garcia’s wife, Sonia Guzman, 25; his son, Daniel Enrique Laso, 9; Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21; Juliza Molina Rivera, 31; and Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18.

Officials declined to answer questions on Tuesday about the speed of the response to the killings.

The top official in San Jacinto County, Fritz Faulkner, said in a telephone interview that he had been alerted to the arrest shortly after it happened. The killings had shocked the community, he said, and the county was now, after several days, finally able to rest easy.

“I’m just elated,” Faulkner said.

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