A resident of the Texas home where a man opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle says his family called police five times over a span of more than 10 minutes before the rampage began that left five people dead and fueled an intensive manhunt for the killer.
Wilson Garcia says he asked his neighbor, who was shooting a gun in his yard late Friday night, to shoot farther away from Garcia’s home because Garcia’s 1-month old son was sleeping. Garcia said he called police when the man refused. The family made four more calls, according to the Associated Press.
“I told my wife, ‘Get inside. This man has loaded his weapon,” Garcia said. “My wife told me to go inside because ‘he won’t fire at me, I’m a woman.’”
Garcia’s wife, Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25, was the first person shot. Garcia’s 9-year-old son also was killed. Garcia said more than a dozen people were in his home at the time, and that two women died protecting his infant and 2-year-old daughter, neither of whom was injured.
San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers explained the delayed police response in the town of Cleveland, about 45 miles north of Houston, saying he had only three officers covering 700 square miles.
The suspect, Francisco Oropeza, 38, remained at large Monday despite a search involving hundreds of law enforcement personnel from multiple jurisdictions.
∙ Capers said officers are going door-to-door looking for information and hopes an $80,000 reward will encourage people who might know something to speak with investigators.
∙ Oropeza’s wife is cooperating with investigators as they try “seeking closure” for the victims, Capers said.
∙ James Smith, FBI Houston Special Agent in Charge said the agency initially released the wrong suspect’s photo but that “now we are 100% confident that we have the right photo out there.”
Abbot statement draws fire from immigrant advocates
Authorities said Oropeza is from Mexico and the victims are from Honduras. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, in interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” declined to discuss the immigration status of those involved citing the “active case.”
Gov. Greg Abbott said all were in the country illegally, drawing criticism from immigrant advocates.
“Five human beings lost their lives and Greg Abbott insists on labeling them ‘illegal immigrants,” tweeted former HUD secretary Julián Castro.
The Immigrant Legal Resource Center chastised Abbott for the describing the victims by their immigration status in a “public message to his constituents who are already flooded w/ deceiving + dehumanizing anti-immigrant rhetoric.”
“My heart is with this … little boy,” Capers said Sunday. “I don’t care if he was here legally. I don’t care if he was here illegally. He was in my county.”
Texas mass shooting victims identified
Authorities have identified the victims as Guzman’s wife, Sonia, and son, Daniel Enrique Laso; Julisa Molina Rivera, 31; Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21; and Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18. Four of the victims died at the scene; Daniel died at a hospital a short time after the shooting Friday night.
Garcia said one of the women had told him to jump out a window “because my children were without a mother and one of their parents had to stay alive to take care of them.”
Francia Cristina Guzman, Sonia’s mother, told Hondura’s LaPrensa that her daughter had build a house for her in Honduras but that she “would give all that… back” to have he daughter and grandson back.
Daniel, attended Northside Elementary School. The Cleveland Independent School District issued a statement saying it was “heartbroken learning the news concerning the death of one of our students.” Crisis counselors were available Monday at district schools.
“All of our prayers and thoughts are with the families and community impacted by this horrible tragedy,” the statement said. “Cleveland ISD will take all measures, precautionary needs and any necessary actions to help all of our students and staff during this time, as well as keeping them safe!”
Francia Cristina Guzman, Silvia’s mother, found out by phone taht her daughter and grandson had been killed. She told Hondura’s LaPrensa that her daughter had build a house for her in Honduras but that she “would give all that to ahve them” back.
Velazquez Alvarado’s husband Jefrey Rivera told the Honduran network HCH that his wife died protecting children. He said she hid in a closet with some of the children. Rivera said he threw a machete at the suspect in a failed effort to stop his advance.
“By the time I found the machete, shots had already been fired,” Rivera said.
‘Zero leads’ on whereabouts of suspect
During a brief news conference Sunday afternoon, authorities say they have “zero leads” on Oropeza.
“We do not know where he is. We do not have any tips on where he may be,” James Smith, FBI Houston Special Agent in Charge told reporters, adding that authorities are uncertain whether the suspect is even still in the area.
Capers said his offices was being supported by the FBI Houston Office and its SWAT team, the U.S. Marshals and Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force, the Harris, Montgomery and Liberty County Sheriff’s Offices, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers.
“Several dozen law enforcement officials are currently investigating leads and intel as it becomes available, as well as continuing to examine the area,” Capers said.
Contributing: Terry Collins, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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