Officials reach cold trail after recovering items believed to be Cleveland gunman's during manhunt

Sunday, April 30, 2023
Mass killing suspect 'could be anywhere' officials say
As the search intensifies for the suspect after five people were killed in a home, officials have recovered a cellphone found abandoned with clothing believed to be the suspect's.

CLEVELAND, Texas (KTRK) -- A San Jacinto County man went next door with a rifle and fatally shot five of his neighbors, including an 8-year-old boy, after they asked him to stop firing rounds in his yard because they were trying to sleep, authorities said Saturday.

The suspect, identified as 38-year-old Francisco Oropeza, remained at large more than 18 hours after the shooting and authorities warned that he might still be armed. The attack happened just before midnight Friday in the 100 block of Walters Road near the town of Cleveland, north of Houston, on a street where some residents say it is not uncommon to hear neighbors unwind by firing off guns.

San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said Oropeza used an AR-style rifle, and as the search for him dragged into Saturday evening, authorities had widened their efforts to as far as "10 to 20 miles" from the murder scene. He said Oropeza may still have a weapon but that he believes authorities have the rifle used in the shooting.

Capers said they found clothes and a phone while combing a rural area that includes dense layers of forest but that tracking dogs had lost the scent.

"He could be anywhere now," Capers said.

When the neighbor approached Oropeza over the fence and asked him to stop shooting because his baby couldn't sleep, the suspect responded by saying that it was his property, according to Sheriff Greg Capers.

The sheriff told Eyewitness News that five victims, including an 8-year-old, were shot from the neck up, "almost execution style."

A judge has issued an arrest warrant for Oropeza and assigned a $5 million bond. Deputies describe Oropeza as a Hispanic man who is 5 feet 8 inches tall. He was last seen wearing jeans, a black shirt, and work boots. Investigators said he has a goatee and short black hair.

Authorities believe Oropeza left by walking or on a bicycle. They focused their search on an area not far from the shooting scene.

Early Saturday afternoon, SkyEye was at the scene, where authorities could be seen searching. At about 1:30 p.m., investigators told Eyewitness News that law enforcement had made with Oropeza by phone.

At a 5:30 p.m. press conference, Sheriff Capers and FBI Special Agent in Charge James Smith provided updates on the search, and acknowledged that they didn't have a handle on where the suspect was located.

According to Capers, a phone that Oropeza reportedly used was found along with clothing that had been abandoned. Officials believe that Oropeza is on foot and consider him a threat to the community as he is said to be armed and dangerous.

WATCH: SkyEye video shows authorities searching for mass shooting suspect in Cleveland, TX

SkyEye captures authorities investigating the aftermath of a mass shooting after a Texas man went next door with a rifle and began shooting his neighbors, killing an 8-year-old and

The FBI is assisting the San Jacinto County Sheriff's Office in the search for Oropeza.

Capers said there were 10 people in the house - some of whom had just moved there earlier in the week - but that no one else was injured.

Capers said two of the victims, all believed to be from Honduras, were found lying over two children inside.

"When we got here, the two females in the bedroom were laying on top of two of three younger (surviving) children," Capers said.

A total of three children found covered in blood in the home were taken to a hospital but found to be uninjured, Capers said.

FBI spokesperson Christina Garza said investigators do not believe everyone at the home were members of a single family.

A family member spoke with ABC13 earlier in the day and began identifying the victims, including the 8-year-old Daniel Enrique Lazo Guzmán.

According to officials, the family identified the other victims as 21-year-old Diana Velasquez Alvarado, 31-year-old Obdulia Molina Rivera, 25-year-old Sonia Argentina Guzmán Taibot, and 18-year-old Josué Jonatan Cáceres.

Rene Arevalo Sr., who lives a few houses down, said he heard gunshots around midnight but didn't think anything of it.

"It's a normal thing people do around here, especially on Fridays after work," Arevalo said. "They get home and start drinking in their backyards and shooting out there."

Capers said his deputies had been to Oropeza's home at least once before and spoken with him about "shooting his gun in the yard." It was not clear whether any action was taken at the time. At a news conference Saturday evening, the sheriff said firing a gun on your own property can be illegal, but he did not say whether Oropeza had previously broken the law.

A few months ago, Arevalo said Oropeza threatened to kill his dog after it got loose in the neighborhood and chased the pit bull in his truck.

"I tell my wife all the time, 'Stay away from the neighbors. Don't argue with them. You never know how they're going to react,'" Arevalo said. "I tell her that because Texas is a state where you don't know who has a gun and who is going to react that way."

Cleveland ISD released a statement to ABC13:

Cleveland Independent School District is heartbroken learning the news concerning the death of one of our students. At this time, we cannot elaborate with information due to the ongoing investigation of the horrendous tragedy. Cleveland ISD's Director of Social Emotional Learning & PBIS; Dr. Hodge, has alerted all Crisis Counselors; these counselors are on call during this weekend for any staff and students that are in need. Monday morning, all of our counselors will be prepared and ready starting at 7:00am. We have informed our staff members to contact their Principal or Department Leader if a counselor is needed before Monday.

All of our prayers and thoughts are with the families and community impacted by this horrible tragedy. 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.


Family members have started to identify the victims, who ranged in age from 8 to 40 years old and are believed to be from Honduras.

A GoFundMe was created to raise money for the bodies of Sonia Argentina Gúzman and Daniel Enrique Laso-Guzman to be sent back to their native Honduras.

The woman's husband and the child's father created the fundraiser.

Across the U.S. since Jan. 1, there have been at least 18 shootings that left four or more people dead, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today, in partnership with Northeastern University. The violence is sparked by various motives: murder-suicides and domestic violence; gang retaliation; school shootings and workplace vendettas.

Texas has confronted multiple mass shootings in recent years, including last year's attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde; a racist attack at an El Paso Walmart in 2019; and a gunman opening fire at a church in the tiny town of Sutherland Springs in 2017.

Republican leaders in Texas have rejected calls for new firearm restrictions, including this year, over the protests of several families whose children were killed in Uvalde.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.