A convicted murderer is on the lam in Leon County, Texas, after he allegedly stabbed a prison guard while being taken to a medical appointment and escaped on foot.
Gonzalo Lopez, a 46-year-old assassin with ties to Mexican drug cartels, staged the dramatic prison break Thursday afternoon as he was being transported between Gatesville and Huntsville, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) said in a warning to the public.
The bus was transporting inmates on Highway 7 near Centerville when authorities said Lopez broke free and attacked the driver, Correctional Officer Randy Smith.
TDCJ spokesman Robert Hurst said at a news conference that a “physical argument” broke out between the two men as the officer struggled to prevent Lopez from taking his service revolver.
The inmate allegedly cut the officer on the hand with some type of makeshift weapon.
“[Lopez] stabbed Officer Smith in the left hand with some type of object. We don’t know what it is. That is still under investigation,” Hurst said.
The officer managed to prevent the inmate from taking his firearm and the bus crashed, at which point Lopez was thrown from the vehicle and ran.
Officer Jimmy Brinegar, the second officer aboard the bus, opened fire on Lopez as he fled, but the inmate managed to escape and was last seen running through a cow pasture.
It is not clear if López was hit by any of the bullets.
No other inmates escaped and they were still sitting in their bonds at the end of the ordeal, authorities said.
A major manhunt is now underway to catch the 46-year-old inmate, with local schools closed for the day on Friday and local residents being urged to shelter in place and not approach the inmate if they see him.
The Centerville ISD school district said all of its classes were canceled “due to the current situation.”
Schools were closed immediately after Thursday’s breakout before students were allowed to leave later that day.
The pursuit appears to be focused on a perimeter within the Centerville, Marquez and Buffalo areas, where investigators believe the inmate may be hiding and members of the public have been told to stay away from the area.
The Leon County Sheriff’s Office said in a social media update in the early hours of Friday morning that people living in the area between CR 317 and CR 320 should lock their doors and vehicles.
“If you see something or someone you don’t recognize or looks suspicious, call 9-1-1, don’t go near the subject,” the office said.
Multiple agencies are working together to try to track down and apprehend the fugitive.
Lopez is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of capital murder in Hidalgo County and attempted murder in Webb County.
In 2005, López, who worked for the La Mana drug cartel of Tamaulipas, Mexico, murdered Lupe Ramírez over a $40,000 drug debt.
The killer bound and bound his victim and placed him in a shallow grave before attacking him with a pickaxe.
The prison break comes just days after a nationwide manhunt for another inmate and his prison officer lover came to an end in Indiana on Monday.
Alabama corrections officer Vicky White and capital murder suspect Casey White absconded together on April 29 from the Lauderdale County Jail in Florence.
After 10 days on the run, White was captured while Mrs. White, who is no relation to him, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.