A manhunt was underway on Saturday for an inmate who escaped a prison transport bus and allegedly stabbed a correctional officer on Thursday afternoon in Texas — and authorities are offering a $22,500 reward for any information leading to his capture.
Gonzalo Lopez, 46, who is serving a life sentence for murder, was traveling on a bus with 15 other inmates from Huntsville to Gatesville, roughly a 160-mile drive, when the attack unfolded, the U.S. Marshals Service said in a press release on Friday.
According to officials, Lopez “managed to free himself from his restraints and use an object to stab the bus driver.” Outside the bus, a struggle with a correctional officer ensued, and Lopez was able to get control of the officer’s handgun — but he was “unable to remove it from the holster.”
Lopez attempted to drive off with the bus, but a second correctional officer shot out the vehicle’s back tires. “He only made it about a mile before losing control and crashing. He then took off into a nearby field,” law enforcement officials said, adding that no other inmates escaped from the bus.
More than 300 law enforcement personnel, including members of the FBI, are searching for Lopez, who escaped custody in Leon County, a rural area between Houston and Dallas.
“I cannot reiterate enough how dangerous this man is and how the public’s help is needed in locating him,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesperson Robert Hurst said Friday.
"We do not know if he has obtained any kind of a weapon," Hurst added. "Last we saw him, he did not appear to have a weapon in his possession, but who knows what he might've been able to get."
“If anybody has seen him, if anybody has any reason to believe he’s been on their property please contact local law enforcement officials by way of 911.”
Authorities said Lopez is affiliated with the Mexican mafia and has ties to the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio areas.
In 1996, he was convicted of aggravated assault and received two eight-year sentences. Lopez is currently serving two life sentences for shooting a sheriff’s deputy in Webb County in 2004, and for killing a man with a pickaxe in Hidalgo County in 2005, after holding him ransom on a $40,000 drug debt that he owed the cartel.
Lopez on Friday was added to Texas’s list of most-wanted fugitives. Together, the U.S. Marshal Service, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Texas Department of Public Safety are offering a total of $22,500 in reward money for information leading to his arrest.
Officials warned that Lopez is “armed and dangerous.” He’s described as a 6-foot-tall Hispanic male, weighing around 185 pounds.
Anyone with information is encouraged to fill out this Department of Criminal Justice tip form or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-832-8477 or 936-437-5171, or dial 911.