Manhunt continues in Texas for escaped killer who broke loose on prison bus and allegedly assaulted driver – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports

(CNN) – A manhunt continued on Friday for a killer who is at large in Leon County, east-central Texas after he assaulted a correctional officer and fled a prison bus, officials said.

Gonzalo Lopez, 46, was serving a life sentence for manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, the Texas Justice Department said.

The escape occurred Thursday afternoon along Highway 7 near Centerville, which is about 120 miles north of Houston, department officials said.

TDCJ spokesman Robert Hurst told reporters Friday that Lopez is very dangerous and residents should stay indoors.

“He received a life sentence for capital homicide in which he killed a man with a pickaxe, and he was also convicted of attempted capital homicide for shooting a police officer with a gun,” Hurst said.

Hurst told citizens not to attack Lopez, who was wearing a white shirt and pants when he fled, and to call 911 if he’s spotted. There is a $15,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

At the third briefing of the day on Friday, Hurst said there had been so many sightings of Lopez since his escape.

The FBI and US Marshals are involved in the search, which includes nearly 300 local, state, and federal law enforcement officials.

The occupant got under the door on the bus

As the transport bus traveled from Gatesville to Huntsville to take inmates to medical appointments, Lopez was able to untie his restraints and reach the driver, Officer Randy Smith, Hurst said

“They got into a physical altercation while Officer Smith was driving the bus. He stabbed Officer Smith in the left hand with some object,” Hurst said Thursday during a media briefing conducted by CNN affiliate KBTX. “Officer Smith fought with him trying to stop him from getting his service revolver – his weapon.”

Hurst said Smith prevented the occupant from taking his gun and the bus stopped.

“The occupant jumped out of the bus, the other occupants were still in their seats — still in their shackles,” he said.

The other officer on the bus, Jimmy Brinegar, fired at the fleeing occupants with his service handgun and shotgun, according to Hurst. “We don’t know if the inmate was hit by any of those shots. Last time we saw him he was fleeing across the cow pasture west of Centerville.”

The officers and the remaining inmates were examined and none suffered life-threatening injuries, he said.

Hurst said Friday’s investigators are still trying to figure out how Lopez got out of his restraints and into the front compartment. There’s a secured door with metal bars around it, Hurst said.

“Somehow we still don’t know how that happened. He got up from under it. He used some kind of device to cut out the bottom of this door. He got under the door, he crawled under the door … and when he got through the opening he cut, he started fighting the officer,” Hurst said.

Lopez was able to commandeer the bus but only made it a mile before crashing. Officers fired on the bus’s rear tires and Lopez lost control, Hurst said.

When asked if Lopez helped, Hurst said the investigation hasn’t answered that yet.

schools closed

The Centerville school district went into “precautionary lockdown” after the escape.

According to statements published on Facebook, elementary school students were temporarily detained in their school gym and high school students in their library before being allowed to go home.

Both schools were closed on Friday, This was announced by the school district.

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https://wsvn.com/news/us-world/manhunt-continues-in-texas-for-escaped-murderer-who-got-out-of-restraints-on-prison-bus-and-allegedly-attacked-driver/ Manhunt continues in Texas for escaped killer who broke loose on prison bus and allegedly assaulted driver – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports

Laura Coffey

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