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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

‘Zero leads’: Dragnet continues for man sought in fatal shooting of 5 in Texas


The F.B.I., having run into “dead ends,” said it was offering an $80,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Francisco Oropesa, who is accused of killing five people.

By María Jiménez Moya, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Eduardo Medina


As a man who lost his wife and son in a shooting rampage in Texas wept so loudly that his sobs were audible over a choir singing “Amazing Grace” at a vigil Sunday evening, the suspect remained at large.


The suspect, Francisco Oropesa, who is accused of killing five people, had been shooting his gun in his yard in Cleveland on Friday evening when his neighbor Wilson Garcia approached him and asked him to stop so that his baby could sleep.


Instead, authorities said, Oropesa, 38, retrieved an AR-15 rifle from his house and walked over to Garcia’s home, where he killed his 8-year-old son, wife and three other people.


“I have no words to describe what happened,” Garcia said in Spanish at the vigil, where dozens of people surrounded him and the other survivors of the shooting, joining them in prayer. “We are alive but there is no life,” he said. “I was able to escape by a miracle.”


Earlier on Sunday, law enforcement officials conceded that they did not know the suspect’s whereabouts, adding that they considered him to be a threat.


“We do not know where he is,” James Smith, the special agent in charge of the FBI in the Houston area, told reporters at a news conference. “We do not have any tips right now as to where he may be. Right now, we have zero leads.”


Authorities said that more than 200 officers, including state troopers, were looking for Oropesa. They have offered an $80,000 reward for information leading to his capture.


Sheriff Greg Capers of San Jacinto County said that there were 10 people inside the house at the time of the shooting. He said that Oropesa had been drinking when Garcia asked him to stop firing his gun. Capers said that Oropesa responded, “I’ll do what I want to in my front yard.”


Capers said authorities believed that they had recovered the AR-15 used in the shooting, but that Oropesa could still be carrying another weapon. Authorities said they had found additional guns in his home as well as a phone.


The FBI identified those killed as Garcia’s wife, Sonia Guzman, 25; Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21; Juliza Molina Rivera, 31; Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18; and Daniel Enrique Laso, 8.


Two of the women were killed while protecting Garcia’s baby and 2-year-old daughter by embracing them and covering them with clothing, Garcia said at the vigil.


He said that when Oropesa refused to stop shooting in his yard, he warned him that he would call the police, and did so five times. The police, he added, said that they were far from the neighborhood, but that they were on their way.


Around 10 to 20 minutes after speaking with Oropesa, he began shooting, Garcia said. After one woman saw Garcia’s wife being shot, she urged Garcia to jump out a window, he added, “because my kids were without a mom already and needed at least one parent.”


Authorities said that three people were taken to hospitals after the shooting. The victims were all from Honduras, officials said. Gov. Greg Abbott’s office said that Oropesa and Garcia and his family were all in the United States illegally.


“My heart is with this 8-year-old little boy,” Capers said Sunday. “I don’t care if he was here legally. I don’t care if he was here illegally. He was in my county.”


Authorities had initially identified the suspect as Francisco Oropeza, but Sunday afternoon the FBI said that going forward his surname would be spelled as Oropesa “to better reflect his identity in law enforcement systems.”


An “incorrect” image of Oropesa had been “mistakenly disseminated,” the agency said on Twitter on Sunday. The FBI said it had since removed the image from its social media accounts and asked that others not share it.


According to authorities, Oropesa had a history of shooting his rifle in his front yard, leading neighbors to call law enforcement on other occasions. They said that a smart-home doorbell equipped with a camera had captured him approaching the neighbors’ front door with his weapon Friday, and that they had interviewed his wife.


Court records show that Oropesa had been charged with misdemeanor drunken driving in Texas in 2009 and convicted. The sentence in that case was not immediately available.


In response to questions about whether Oropesa could legally fire his gun in his yard, Capers said it depended on the size of the property and where the weapon was pointed.


Rene Arevalo, who lives in the neighborhood where the shooting took place, said that people in the community would often shoot for sport, and that it was not unusual to hear gunshots, but that he had never witnessed any arguments involving weapons.


Arevalo, who lives with his wife and 21-year-old son, said that he had considered building a fence around his home. Now, he added, it was a necessity. “It’s just concerning,” Arevalo said, “not knowing who your neighbor is.”


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