A convicted murderer who was being transported in a Texas prison bus last Thursday allegedly cut through metal, attacked an officer and ran into woods nearby.
He has not been seen since – prompting what officials say is one of the largest search efforts for an escaped inmate in the state’s history.
He was added to the state’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives List, with authorities offering up to $50,000 for information that leads to his capture.
Here’s what we know about Lopez and his escape.
He was serving two life sentences
Convicted in Texas of two counts of aggravated assault in 1996, Lopez received two eight-year sentences, according to the state’s public safety department. In 2006, he was convicted of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping and sentenced to life in prison, the department said.
The following year, he was handed a second life sentence for an attempted capital murder conviction, according to the department.
“He’s got a life sentence for a capital murder, where he killed a man with a pickaxe and he’s also gotten an attempted capital murder conviction for shooting a gun at a police officer,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesperson Robert Hurst said at a Friday news conference. “He’s somebody who is very dangerous.”
Lopez also had several other offenses on his record dating back to at least 1994, according to TDCJ records.
He is affiliated with the Mexican Mafia and has ties to the Rio Grande Valley area – including Weslaco and Mercedes – and San Antonio, the state’s public safety department said.
How he escaped
The inmate escaped last Thursday afternoon, as he was being transported from a facility in Gatesville to another unit in Huntsville for a medical appointment, authorities said in a Wednesday statement.
Huntsville is around 70 miles north of Houston.
“Due to his criminal history and restrictive housing status, inmate Lopez was being transported in a separate, caged area of the bus, designated for high-risk inmates,” the statement said.
But as he was being transported, Lopez broke out of his restraints, cut through the metal and crawled out of the bottom of the cage, the state’s criminal justice department said. He then attacked the driver, forcing the bus to a stop, according to the department.
In a previous briefing, Hurt said Lopez “stabbed” the officer who was driving with “some sort of object,” and the officer struggled with – but ultimately prevented – Lopez from grabbing his service weapon. The other inmates were still in their restraints, Hurst said.
The driver and the inmate got out of the bus, and a second officer, who was at the back of the vehicle, got out and began approaching Lopez, the statement said. The inmate went back into the bus and attempted to drive away but the officers shot at the tires and stopped the vehicle, authorities said.
Lopez left the bus and ran into the woods off of Highway 7 in Leon County, according to authorities.
One of the officers fired at the fleeing inmate but authorities are not aware if Lopez was hit, Hurst previously said.
“Last we saw him he was fleeing across the cow pasture west of Centerville,” Hurst said. Centerville is about 50 miles from Huntsville.
One of the largest inmate search efforts in state history
On Tuesday, Hurst told reporters that authorities were getting closer to catching Lopez and were hoping to have him in custody soon.
“We’ve gotten some information, may bring us a little bit closer to closing in on him and hopefully getting him back in our custody,” he said.
Hurst said the search was “very concentrated” and called it “one of the largest search efforts for an escaped inmate in Texas Department of Criminal Justice history.”
The FBI and US Marshals are involved in the search, which includes almost 300 local, state and federal law enforcement personnel, Hurst previously said.
Authorities are conducting the manhunt on foot with canine patrols, horseback and with the help of helicopters, officials said, and urged travelers not to pick up hitchhikers.
No prison clothes have been found, so authorities believe Lopez could still be in them, Hurst said, though it was still possible he could have changed his clothes.
There is an ongoing investigation into the escape and whether the inmate may have had assistance, he added.
Lopez is about 6 feet tall, 185 pounds and has tattoos on his back, chest and abdomen, authorities said.