Jourdanton, TX – A convicted killer who escaped from a prison bus and went on to murder five people while on the run was fatally shot in a gun battle with police on Thursday night.
Gonzalo Artemio Lopez, 46, was serving a life sentence on a 2005 capital murder conviction and a 2004 attempted capital murder conviction when he escaped from a prison transport bus in Leon County while on his way to a medical appointment in Huntsville on May 12, The Washington Post reported.
The alleged Mexican Mafia member busted out of his restraints, stabbed the bus driver in his chest and left hand, and got behind the wheel, The New York Times reported.
A second transport officer shot out the back tires of the vehicle, but Lopez was still able to make it about a mile down the road.
He ultimately crashed the bus in a cow pasture and took off on foot into the woods, resulting in a massive manhunt that stretched on for several weeks, The Washington Post reported.
Fifteen other inmates inside the bus did not escape and were all accounted for, according to the Associated Press.
A $50,000 reward had ben issued for Lopez’s arrest and he was added to the 10 Most Wanted Fugitives List in Texas, according to WPVI.
The escaped killer’s trail went cold until June 2, when an adult and four children were found dead inside a home located on Highway 7 in Leon County.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDOCJ) said investigators determined Lopez broke into the residence, which was believed to be the victims’ weekend home, and murdered them, WPVI reported.
He then allegedly stole firearms and clothing and took off in the victims’ white 1999 Chevrolet Silverado.
The bodies of the five victims were found after a concerned relative called police to report they couldn’t reach the elderly homeowner, WPVI reported.
Officers went to the house at approximately 6 p.m.
Investigators said they had previously searched the house on multiple other occasions since Lopez’s escape and that there was no evidence he had been there during those sweeps, The Washington Post reported.
They said they do not believe the victims and Lopez knew one another.
The identities and ages of the victims were not immediately released.
TDOCJ Chief of Staff Jason Clark held a press conference Thursday evening and vowed police would not rest until Lopez was apprehended, WPVI reported.
Hours later and approximately 260 miles away from the murder scene, Atascosa County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) deputies spotted the stolen Chevrolet, according to The Washington Post.
Police set up spike strips on a street in Jourdanton during the ensuing pursuit, and successfully flattened all four tires on the pickup, WPVI reported.
That’s when deputies said Lopez pointed the barrel of a rifle out the window and opened fire on the them.
The deputies returned fire, killing Lopez in the shootout, WPVI reported.
No officers were injured during the encounter, Atascosa County Sheriff David Soward said during a press conference on Thursday night.
Investigators said Lopez was armed with a handgun and an AR-15 at the time of gun battle, WPVI reported.
According to court records, Lopez’s prior convictions involved an incident in 2006 where he kidnapped a man over a drug debt and murdered him with a pickaxe, The Washington Post reported.
The attempted murder conviction stemmed from an incident in 2004 where he opened fire on a Webb County sheriff’s deputy.
“I will tell you that we are breathing a sigh of relief that Lopez will not be able to hurt anyone else,” Clark said, according to The New York Times.