Texas prison officials have suspended inmate transports after a convicted murderer allegedly killed a man and his four grandchildren after escaping from custody.
Gonzalo Lopez, 46, escaped a prison bus after stabbing the driver in the hand and chest on May 12. Lopez was serving a life sentence for capital murder in Hidalgo County and an attempted capital murder in Webb County.
“TDCJ has temporarily suspended the transport of inmates as the agency conducts a comprehensive review of its transportation procedures. If it becomes necessary to do a transport such as releasing or an emergency medical appointment, additional security measures will be implemented,” the TDCJ wrote in a statement to ABC News Houston station KTRK. “The agency is conducting an internal Serious Incident Review and also intends to bring in an outside firm to conduct an independent review to identify factors that may have lad to the escape of (Gonzalo) Lopez.”
State Sen. John Whitmire, chair of the Texas Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, said the Texas Department of Justice should suspend transports until safeguards are in place.
Whitmire is calling for the requirement of three armed correctional officers on a bus that carries violent offenders with a trailing vehicle behind.
Currently, the state only requires two officers on the bus and there are no requirements for a car following the transport.
“While the investigation continues into exactly what happened with the recent escape and tragic murder of 5 members of the Collins family, we must act swiftly to ensure no other Texan is in danger of losing their life or being harmed by an escaped inmate being transported on Texas roads,” Whitmire said in a statement prior to the decision to suspend transports.
Lopez escaped from a prison bus on May 12 after breaking out of a cage structure and stabbing the driver. Lopez was being transported from Gatesville to Huntsville for a medical appointment.
Lopez, the driver and a second officer all exited the bus before Lopez got back in and drove away in the vehicle.
Lopez remained on the run until June 2, when he is believed to have murdered five other people before being shot and killed by authorities in a shootout.
Officials allege Lopez entered Mark Collins’ home in Leon County and murdered Collins and his four grandchildren, whose ages range from 11 to 18.
Authorities have alleged that Lopez stole clothes, firearms and a 1999 white Chevrolet Silverado from the residence.
The victims were seen on the morning of June 2 and found murdered that evening around 6 p.m., according to authorities.
Deputies from the Atascosa County Sheriff’s Office spotted the suspected stolen vehicle later that night and followed it until officials were able to lay out spike strips that flattened the truck’s four tires in Jourdanton, almost 250 miles from Leon County.
According to authorities, Lopez fired the first shots with a rifle aimed out of the truck’s window. The deputies returned fire, killing Lopez.
Prior to the shootout, Lopez was added to Texas’ 10 Most Wanted Fugitives List and officials issued a $50,000 reward for his capture.