AP (NEW)

Texas mass shooting suspect could be anywhere, sheriff says

Apr 30, 2023, 6:00 PM

San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers talks to investigators at the scene where five people were s...

San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers talks to investigators at the scene where five people were shot and killed the night before, Saturday, April 29, 2023, in unincorporated San Jacinto County, Texas. The suspect, Francisco Oropeza, who lives next door, is still at large. (Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle via AP)

(Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle via AP)

CLEVELAND, Texas (AP) — The search for a Texas man who allegedly shot his neighbors after they asked him to stop firing off rounds in his yard stretched into a second day Sunday, with authorities saying the man could be anywhere by now.

Francisco Oropeza, 38, fled after the shooting Friday night that left five people dead, including an 8-year-old boy. San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said Saturday evening that authorities had widened the search to as far as 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the scene of the shooting.

Investigators found clothes and a phone while combing a rural area that includes dense layers of forest, but tracking dogs lost the scent, Capers said.

Police recovered the AR-15-style rifle that Oropeza allegedly used in the shootings but authorities were not sure if he was carrying another weapon, the sheriff said.

“He could be anywhere now,” Capers said.

The attack happened near the town of Cleveland, north of Houston, on a street where some residents say neighbors often unwind by firing off guns.

Capers said the victims were between the ages of 8 and 31 years old and that all were believed to be from Honduras. All were shot “from the neck up,” he said.

The attack was the latest act of gun violence in what has been a record pace of mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year, some of which have also involved semiautomatic rifles.

The mass killings have played out in a variety of places — a Nashville schoola Kentucky banka Southern California dance hall, and now a rural Texas neighborhood inside a single-story home.

Capers said there were 10 people in the house — some of whom had just moved there earlier in the week — but that that no one else was injured. He said two of the victims were found in a bedroom laying over two children in an apparent attempt to shield them.

A total of three children found covered in blood in the home were taken to a hospital but found to be uninjured, Capers said.

FBI spokesperson Christina Garza said investigators do not believe everyone at the home were members of a single family. The victims were identified as Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25; Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21; Julisa Molina Rivera, 31; Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18; and Daniel Enrique Laso, 8.

The confrontation followed the neighbors walking up to the fence and asking the suspect to stop shooting rounds, Capers said. The suspect responded by telling them that it was his property, Capers said, and one person in the house got a video of the suspect walking up to the front door with the rifle.

The shooting took place on a rural pothole-riddled street where single-story homes sit on wide 1-acre lots and are surrounded by a thick canopy of trees. A horse could be seen behind the victim’s home, while in the front yard of Oropeza’s house a dog and chickens wandered.

Rene Arevalo Sr., who lives a few houses down, said he heard gunshots around midnight but didn’t think anything of it.

“It’s a normal thing people do around here, especially on Fridays after work,” Arevalo said. “They get home and start drinking in their backyards and shooting out there.”

Capers said his deputies had been to Oropeza’s home at least once before and spoken with him about “shooting his gun in the yard.” It was not clear whether any action was taken at the time. At a news conference Saturday evening, the sheriff said firing a gun on your own property can be illegal, but he did not say whether Oropeza had previously broken the law.

Capers said the new arrivals in the home had moved from Houston earlier in the week, but he said he did not know whether they were planning to stay there.

Across the U.S. since Jan. 1, there have been at least 18 shootings that left four or more people dead, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today, in partnership with Northeastern University. The violence is sparked by a range of motives: murder-suicides and domestic violence; gang retaliation; school shootings; and workplace vendettas.

Texas has confronted multiple mass shootings in recent years, including last year’s attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde; a racist attack at an El Paso Walmart in 2019; and a gunman opening fire at a church in the tiny town of Sutherland Springs in 2017.

Republican leaders in Texas have continually rejected calls for new firearm restrictions, including this year over the protests of several families whose children were killed in Uvalde.

A few months ago, Arevalo said Oropeza threatened to kill his dog after it got loose in the neighborhood and chased the pit bull in his truck.

“I tell my wife all the time, ‘Stay away from the neighbors. Don’t argue with them. You never know how they’re going to react,’” Arevalo said. “I tell her that because Texas is a state where you don’t know who has a gun and who is going to react that way.”

____

A previous version of this story, based on information from a San Jacinto County prosecutor, incorrectly identified one of the victims as 15 years old. This story also clarifies that police recovered an AR-15-style rifle in 4th paragraph.

_____

Weber reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writer Ken Miller contributed to this report.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

AP (New)

A demonstrator waves Iranian and Palestinian flags during an anti-Israeli gathering at the Felestin...

Associated Press

The Latest | Israel says 99% of drones and missiles launched by Iran were intercepted

Israel is hailing the success of its defenses after an attack by Iran involving hundreds of drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

10 days ago

Former President Trump shown,, trump hush money trial started Monday...

Associated Press

Trump says Arizona’s abortion ban goes too far while defending the overturning of Roe v. Wade

Former President Trump said Arizona's abortion ban goes too far, but defended the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

14 days ago

Beverly Smith picks produce while grocery shopping at Ream's....

Associated Press

What stores are open on Easter Sunday 2024? See Walmart, Target, Costco hours

Need to make a last-minute trip to the store for more Easter eggs and candy? Make sure you know what stores are open and closed on Easter.

25 days ago

FILE - Joana Vicente attends the 2024 Sundance Film Festival's Opening Night Gala on Jan. 18, 2024,...

Lindsey Bahr AP Film Writer

Joana Vicente steps down as Sundance Institute CEO

Joana Vicente has been announced to be stepping down as the CEO of the Sundance Institute after taking the position two and a half years ago.

1 month ago

The price of chocolate is rising just in time for Easter due to crop damages in West Africa. (Stock...

Damian J. Troise

Rich cocoa prices hitting shoppers with bitter chocolate costs as Easter approaches

Cocoa prices are rising because the chocolate's plant crops have been damaged due to high heat temperatures in West Africa.

1 month ago

St. Patrick's Day is today! To celebrate, learn a little bit about the history, why American's cele...

Deepti Hajela

From 4-leaf clovers to some unexpected history, all you need to know about St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick's day is today. To celebrate, read a little about the holiday's history, why American's celebrate it, and who St. Patrick was.

1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

Texas mass shooting suspect could be anywhere, sheriff says