More than 200 officers from multiple law enforcement agencies are searching for the gunman accused of shooting and killing five people, including a 9-year-old child, at a Cleveland, Texas, home after neighbors asked him to stop firing his rifle outdoors, officials said Sunday.
Those officers are going door to door and asking community members for information while authorities are also creating billboard posters in Spanish to inform everyone of the search, San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said in a Sunday afternoon news conference.
And there’s now also a collective $80,000 reward being offered for information that leads to the suspect’s arrest, FBI Houston Special Agent in Charge James Smith announced in the news conference.
Francisco Oropesa, 38, is accused of killing four adults and a 9-year-old boy at a neighboring home Friday night in the city of Cleveland – about 40 miles northeast of downtown Houston. Investigators initially started tracking Oropesa using his cellphone, but said that trail went cold Saturday evening – and he could now be anywhere.
“We don’t have any tips right now to where he may be and that’s why we’ve come up with this reward, so that hopefully somebody out there can call us,” Smith said at Sunday’s news conference.
“I can pretty much guarantee you, he’s contacted some of his friends,” Smith said, adding, “We just don’t know what friends they are and that’s what we need from the public, is any type of information because right now we’re running into dead ends.”
In a Twitter post earlier Sunday, the FBI warned the suspect is “armed and dangerous” and urged anyone who saw Oropesa not to approach him.
The US has suffered at least 184 mass shootings in the first four months of this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The nonprofit, like CNN, defines mass shootings as those in which four or more people are shot – not including the shooter.
How the massacre unfolded
Authorities said Sunday they were focused on capturing the suspect and bringing closure and justice to the five people killed. A day earlier, the sheriff described how the violence unfolded.
“The victims, they came over to the fence said, ‘Hey, could you mind not shooting out in the yard. We have a young baby that is trying to go sleep,’” Capers said Saturday.
The suspect, who had been drinking, responded: “I’ll do what I want to in my front yard.”
At some point, a doorbell camera at the home of the victims captured the suspect approaching with his rifle, Capers said.
Then the home turned into a scene of carnage. Multiple people were later found dead in different rooms.
Nine-year-old Daniel Enrique Laso-Guzman was shot and killed. So were Sonia Argentina Gúzman, 25; Diana Velázquez Alvarado, 21; Julisa Molina Rivera, 31, and José Jonathan Cásarez, 18.
All five were shot “almost execution style” – above the neck at close range, the sheriff said.
Five other people who were home during the rampage were not hurt, Capers said. Three children were found covered in blood and were taken to a hospital, but were not injured.
Authorities believe two women died while using their bodies to shield the children who survived.
“The three children … were covered in blood from the same ladies that were laying on top of them trying to protect them,” the sheriff said Sunday. Those children are now safe and with family, he added.
A vigil for the 9-year-old boy was scheduled to take place Sunday evening, the sheriff said. Authorities initially reported the boy was 8 years old, but his father told CNN on Sunday his son turned 9 in January.
Father of slain boy describes what happened
Wilson Garcia, the father of the young boy killed, said they called 911 five times Friday night to report the suspect shooting his firearm.
Capers, the sheriff, said Sunday authorities got to the scene as fast as they could but there is a small force covering a large county. The home where the shooting took place is about 15 minutes outside of town.
Garcia said he and two other men walked over to Oropesa to ask him to stop shooting so close to their home because their baby was sleeping. He said they asked Oropesa to shoot on the other side of his property.
About 10 to 20 minutes later, the suspect came back, walked up to the house and started shooting, killing Garcia’s wife, Sonia Argentina Gúzman, first at the front door of the home, he said.
Garcia said he jumped out of a window and ran – adding another woman told him he had to survive because his children didn’t have a mother anymore and needed him.
‘We have zero leads’
Authorities had received previous calls about Oropesa allegedly shooting his rifle in the front yard, the sheriff said.
Law enforcement initially spelled the suspect’s name as “Oropeza” but the FBI said Sunday it will use the spelling “Oropesa” to “better reflect his identity in law enforcement systems.” The FBI acknowledged he has been listed in various databases with both spellings.
Oropesa was known to shoot a .223 rifle, Capers said. Shell casings were also found outside the home after the shooting.
Authorities found at least three weapons inside the suspect’s home and spoke to the suspect’s wife, the sheriff said.
Oropesa’s cell phone was found abandoned, along with articles of clothing, Capers said.
“The tracking dogs from Texas Department of Corrections picked up the scent, and then they lost that scent,” he said.
Authorities said Sunday they did not know if the suspect was still in the area.
“If anybody, whether you are here in this county, or this state of Texas or around the country, have any tips, we’re asking you to please call” authorities, Smith, with the FBI, said. “Right now, we have zero leads.”
All 5 slain victims were Honduran
Some of those inside the home had moved there from Houston just days ago, the sheriff said.
Wilson Paz, director general of migrant protection for Honduras, told CNN all five victims were Honduran.
The Honduran Consulate in Houston is offering support to the victims’ families and preparing to repatriate the five people killed, the Honduran Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“The Government of Honduras deeply regrets the loss of these valuable lives and accompanies all their loved ones in their pain,” the statement said. “We demand that the pertinent authorities arrest the perpetrator of this terrible event and apply the full weight of the law.”
Correction: A previous version of this story gave the wrong photo of the suspect due to incorrect information provided by the FBI Houston Field Office.
CNN’s Rosa Flores, Michelle Watson, Andy Rose, Keith Allen, Raja Razek and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.