CENTERVILLE, Texas — Officials say they have concluded an "exhaustive ground and air search" in Leon County for a convicted murderer who reportedly hijacked and crashed a Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) bus.
While being taken to Huntsville on a TDCJ bus on Thursday, May 12, authorities say Gonzalo Lopez, 46, slipped out of his shackles, went to the front of the bus and stabbed the driver, identified as Randy Smith, in the hand. The bus was had 15 other inmates on board.
As the men struggled, authorities say Lopez tried to get Smith's gun from his holster, but failed. The bus then crashed in a ditch on Highway 7, about two miles west of Centerville. He then ran off as law enforcement fired shots toward him. It's unclear if he was hit.
Smith was treated for non-life-threatening injuries to his hand, according to the TDCJ. Another guard on the bus, identified as Jimmie Brinegar, was not injured.
Fifteen other inmates were on the bus at the time of the incident, all of whom stayed on board.
"A contingent of personnel will remain in the county and will be conducting strategic searches of areas outside the original secured perimeter," the TDCJ said in a statement. "The renewed focus by OIG, Texas Rangers, and U.S. Marshals is to leave no stone unturned as they follow leads and track Lopez’s whereabouts."
Lopez is serving a life sentence for capital murder out of Hidalgo County after killing a man with a pickax, and attempted capital murder out of Webb County.
Those with information are asked to contact TDCJ OIG Crime Stoppers at 1-800-832-8477 or 936-437-5171 or their local law enforcement agency at 911. A tip can also be left on their website. If you spot Lopez, call 911 immediately. A reward of $50,000 is being offered for information leading to his arrest.
“Anyone who has knowledge of Lopez’s location should come forward,” said Inspector General Cris Love. “Those found to be helping or harboring him not only will face arrest and prosecution, but I believe they are putting themselves in danger. Lopez has a complete disregard for human life and will do what it takes to avoid capture. We will take this investigation wherever it leads us until Lopez is back in custody.”